Study of Polyethylene Fibers Used in Masks Via Luminescent Aerosolized Silicon Nanoparticles

Ayman Rezk, Juveiriah M. Ashraf, Wafa Alnaqbi, Sabina Abdul Hadi, Ghada Dushaq, Aisha Alhammadi, Tala El Kukhun, Mahmoud Rasras, Ahmad R. Nusair, Munir Nayfeh, Ammar Nayfeh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Commercial polyethylene (PE) fiber-based masks are currently used as personal filters for protection against various microorganisms. Due to the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic of 2020, the use of masks has become the critical mechanism in reducing the spread. The PE mask filter uses a sieve (geometry) in a spider web fashion to filter out microorganisms using Van der Waals atomic forces. However, the non-geometrical part of the filtration process is not fully understood. In this work, we utilized luminescent ultra-small silicon nanoparticles, which are Si-H or/and Si-OH terminated to examine how the filter operates at a chemical level. The particles were sprayed onto the fiber network by an atomizer and we used scanning electron microscopy (SEM), optical microscope and fluorescence spectroscopy under UV radiation. The images and measurements clearly showed that the Si nanoparticles bonded to the PE fiber network. The results were analyzed in terms of chemical bonding between Si nanoparticle and fiber. Our findings suggest that the PE fibers could act as a chemical filter via hydrogen or hydrolysis–based bonding or via Si-C bonding, which is complementary to their physical filtration ability via the geometric sieve process. Graphic Abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.].

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6981-6991
Number of pages11
Issue number12
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • Fibers
  • Masks
  • Nanoparticles
  • Si
  • Spectroscopy
  • microcopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials


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