N95 Respirator

Peter Tsai PhD, Taiwanese & American materials scientist (1952- )

When material scientist Peter Tsai PhD invented the N95 respirator in the 1990s, it was originally intended for industrial use. Working in construction, mining, and automotive maintenance had all sorts of occupational health and safety hazards because of the high exposure to nanoparticles in construction materials or coal dust, which increased the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or black lung disease. At the time, masks filtered particles mechanically by trapping them in the fibers, but Dr. Tsai and his research team at the University of Tennessee developed a material with electrostatically charged fibers that pulled particles in. The N95 respirator proved to be 10 times more efficient than other masks, putting its filtering capacity at 95 percent without making it harder to breathe while wearing one.

Dr. Tsai patented the creation in 1995, and a year later the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discovered that the N95 could also block viruses and bacteria. This revelation encouraged its use in healthcare settings, and it has proven to be indispensable during the COVID-19 pandemic, where it continues to save lives. In 2020, since N95 respirators were in short supply, Dr. Tsai came out of retirement to study the best way to sanitize and re-use them.  

For more info https://ge.usembassy.gov/meet-the-u-s-scientist-who-invented-the-n95-mask-filter/

N95 Respirator

Inventions by Asian Americans |