The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a surge in people wearing single use items such as face masks and gloves.
The proliferation of such disposable personal protective equipment has raised major concerns about the environmental toll created.
But a team from Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi may have the answer. Researchers there have developed a prototype of a biodegradable, environmentally-friendly face mask with nanofibers that will have strong anti-microbial properties.
Known as "navamask", it can be reused several times before disposal.
The project was the result of a collaboration between Khalifa University and University of Salerno in Italy.
"The innovation ... reflects not only Khalifa University's continuous commitment to finding solutions that directly contribute to serving the society, but also the result of the university’s funding of fourteen research projects directly related to mitigating the pandemic," said Dr Arif Al Hammadi, executive vice president at Khalifa University.
"This innovation reaffirms our research efforts to develop areas that focus on issues related to the community in general, especially those that help find a solution to Covid-19."
Shadi Hasan, associate professor at Khalifa University and one of the team's members, said they believed there was a crucial need for an environment-friendly alternative to the current face masks, while maintaining the highest safety standards and breathability.
The filters aim to provide effective protection and avoid skin irritation while being safe for the environment. Its strong anti-microbial properties remove 99 per cent of bacteria, researchers said.
The next step is starting the second phase of design, which aims to improve the mask even more.