Centre of Excellence in Protective Equipment and Materials – Faculty of Engineering
Ravi Selvaganapathy works in a lab.

Centre of Excellence in Protective Equipment and Materials

Global leaders in creating the next generation of personal protective equipment. This collection of infrastructure and projects will be unique not only in Canada, but also in the rest of world.

Company partners

Sneha Shanbhag gives a tour of the CEPEM facility.

Thematic areas

The activities of the centre are focused on the following thematic areas:

Existing PPEs such as face masks and face shields were not specifically designed for medical use and have dated designs that don’t incorporate the latest advances in materials and manufacturing technologies. We will design and develop the next-generation PPE that is customizable to the individual’s facial features, uses the latest functional materials, and incorporates the needs and requirements of medical professionals. We will also develop reusable PPEs that are capable of being sterilized and reused making them green and reusable.

We will work with Canadian manufacturers of PPEs in the automation of operations for PPE manufacturing. In addition, we will also develop new manufacturing processes for meltblown, meltspun, and electrospun materials to produce functional hybrid composites that will enable high-performance PPEs. Small-scale prototyping equipment for melt blowing, meltspinning, and electrospinning will form a core facility within the center.

The properties and performance of the PPEs are ultimately dependent on the materials used. Existing PPEs use commodity polymers such as polypropylene and polyethylene. We will assist new Canadian manufacturers of non-wovens to identify suitable polymer blends and additives that can provide additional functional properties such as antimicrobial, antiviral, self cleaning, air purifying, pathogen and chemical sensing, active water and blood repelling, humidity and thermal control.

A core facility within the center will be a well-validated and robust testing facility that will be capable of performing assessments on barrier properties (airflow resistance, particulate and bacterial filtration efficiency, quantitative fit testing, aerosol distribution visualization), mechanical integrity (tensile, bulge, adhesion, pull, flexural and fatigue) and materials properties (microscopic structure, pore size, fiber uniformity, composition, leaching, degradation). This facility will serve as a resource not only for academic research but also for the local industry.

Current standards for PPEs such as facemasks or face shields are not intended or specifically designed with their medical use in mind. We will work with national agencies to define Canadian and international standards for the testing of PPEs. In particular, we will focus on medical use and collaborate with medical colleagues to formulate standards that would assess the performance of PPEs under medically relevant conditions.

PPEs currently used are mostly disposable due to the fear of contamination between uses. However, being manufactured from polymers obtained from fossil fuels and incinerated after a single use, they contribute to greenhouse gases and eventually climate change. We will develop PPEs using natural polymers such as cellulose and with biodegradable properties that can avoid use of fossil fuels in their manufacture and limit their contribution to climate change.

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