ÉTS researchers working in collaboration with KWI Polymers

High-performance filtration membranes for N95 masks

Thursday, May 14, 2020
sylvain cloutier ets
Sylvain Cloutier.

Among the many challenges it presents, the current pandemic has clearly demonstrated the importance of advanced manufacturing in terms of producing medical equipment for Québec on a large scale. ÉTS researchers are renowned throughout industrial and academic circles for their expertise and leadership in the advanced materials and manufacturing sector.

For a number of years, the team overseen by Professor Sylvain G. Cloutier has been working to create new structural nanomaterials with unique properties (Canada Research Chair in Hybrid Optoelectronic Materials and Devices) and to develop industrial applications for these materials (ArianeGroup Research Chair on Emerging Materials in the Aeronautics and Space Sector).

Given the growing demand for protective equipment, it is no surprise that Professor Cloutier’s team was approached by their industrial partners for assistance in rapidly upgrading their manufacturing methods for high-performance filtration membranes used in N95 masks produced entirely in Québec.

sylvain cloutier team
Left to right: Luis-Felipe Gerlein-Reyes, Paul Fourmont, Jaime-Alberto Benavides-Guerrero and Xiaohang Guo, all Ph.D. students supervised by Professor Cloutier.

In fact, Boisbriand-based KWI Polymers Inc., with whom the team has worked in the past, called upon ÉTS once again to help fine-tune a new large-scale manufacturing process. According to Yves Laroche, President of KWI Polymers Inc.: “Our objective is to be able to produce 388 square metres of filtration membrane per hour, which represents approximately 8,333 N95 masks”. 

The ÉTS staff was able to respond to the call quickly, and to provide support for the research team in the deployment of the project. Over the course of only a few days, the team was able to obtain travel authorization, set up a legal agreement, send certain pieces of research equipment to KWI so the work could begin and carry out a number of critical tests at ÉTS labs.

High-performance filtration membranes manufactured by ÉTS researchers at KWI Polymers Inc.

It has been nearly three weeks since KWI Polymers Inc. opened its doors to the ÉTS researchers, who have been working seven days per week to successfully manufacture a filtration membrane that meets the expectations of their industrial partner. Mr. Laroche is delighted with the incredible expertise of the team from ÉTS, who were very quickly able to develop a functional solution that can be deployed on a large scale. Sylvain Cloutier explains: “I was fortunate that I already have a team of experienced students in place, with all of the necessary skills for manufacturing these types of materials”.

membrane n95 ets
High-performance filtration membranes manufactured by ÉTS researchers at KWI Polymers Inc..

Considering the urgent nature of this project, the NSERC approved a research grant to support the work of Professor Cloutier’s team, under the auspices of the Alliance COVID-19 grants program. 

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