Mask Comparison

Simple New Experiment Reveals Which Face Masks Are Best at Blocking Droplets

We know that by wearing masks, we can help reduce the transmission of COVID-19, and we know that not every type of face mask is equally good at blocking viral droplets when we cough, sneeze, talk – or even simply breathe. But how can we really know for sure?

New research from scientists at Duke University shows you don’t actually need all that much to devise a test. In a proof-of-concept study, they cobbled together a simple, low-cost laser device, and conducted an experiment comparing 14 different types of masks and face coverings.

“Surgical masks are commonly worn by medical personnel and have received a fair amount of testing in clinical settings,” Fischer says.

The results showed that fitted N95 masks blocked the greatest amount of droplets released by the person speaking, followed by surgical masks, then masks made with polypropylene.

Droplet count results for each mask.

Droplet count results for each mask. (Fischer et al., Science Advances, 2020)