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Handmade paper from Abaca Fiber and Abaca-made Face Mask samples.

Cagayan de Oro City - The Department of Science and Technology-X (DOST-X) has formed different response teams and implemented different S&T initiatives to assist government and non-government agencies in combatting the health crisis brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the agency's COVID-19 response initiatives is the evaluation of materials for possible alternatives in making home-made face masks.

Due to insistent requests, DOST-X accepted different kinds of cloths and face masks made from different materials submitted by local suppliers in the city since April 2020. The agency evaluated the samples according to available resources and literature.

One of the materials evaluated by the DOST-X through its Regional Standards and Testing Laboratories (RSTL) are abaca-made face masks from Salay Handmade Products Industries, Inc. (SHPII). SHPII is a proponent of the DOST flagship program called the Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program (SETUP).

RSTL used Microscopy to evaluate fiber structures and measure pore sizes, and evaluated the material's water repellency and absorbency through simple Water Drop Tests and Laboratory-Modified Water Drop Tests, respectively.


The simple Water Drop Test is a method to determine the capacity of a fabric or material to repel water, a method from the “A Face Mask Resource Kit” of the Philippine Textile and Research Institute (DOST-PTRI). While the Laboratory-Modified Water Drop Test is an in-house modification of the Water Repellency: Spray Test (AATCC TM22) of the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists.

The three tests were done on the abaca-made face mask samples as well as on the commercial surgical face masks and N95 masks. The laboratory also selected controls for comparison of results.

RSTL conveyed the results of the evaluation and observations to SHPII in the form of an evaluation report.

The Microscopy results showed data of the pore sizes and description of the fiber configuration, which suggests that the abaca-made face mask has pore sizes that range from 10-70µm and has larger fibers than the materials of the surgical and N95 mask. It also has a medium to tight configuration.

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Abaca handmade paper with the bead of water observed after 30 minutes.

The simple Water Drop Test results showed that the abaca-made face mask did not yield repellent because it did not show a well-defined bead of water within and after at least 30 seconds. While the surgical face mask yielded repellent.

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Abaca handmade paper with the mark of water absorbed after a few minutes.

Results from the simple Laboratory-Modified Water Drop Test experiment showed that the abaca-made mask absorbed three to five percent (3-5%), while the N95 mask absorbed forty-six percent (46%), and the surgical face mask absorbed zero point seventeen percent (0.17%) of the total volume of water dispensed.

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 Abaca-made facemask inside an analytical balance weighed after dispensing of water.

Though DOST-X evaluated the materials for hand-made face masks with the best of its available resources, it is still continually upgrading its capabilities to be able to conduct the standard tests as approved by regulatory bodies. The results of the evaluation from the abovementioned parameters do not reflect the filtering efficiency or the filter performance of the samples.

The evaluation observations, however, may provide options as to the better choice from available materials. As in most scientific studies, additional tests are always welcome, thus, the DOST-X recommends the conduct of standard tests by accredited institutions and further R&D on the potential of abaca handmade paper as a material component of face masks because it is locally available and environment friendly. (Alloena Marie Neri and Freann Faith Lagahit, DOST-X)