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TriboE masks and triboelectricity

Topics Covered: Indigenization and development of new technology.

TriboE masks and triboelectricity

What to study?

For Prelims: Features, how they work and what is triboelectricity?

For Mains: Need for and significance of such masks.

Context: A team of researchers at the Centre for Nano and Soft Matter Sciences (CeNS), Bangalore, an autonomous institute of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), have come up with a recipe for making face masks, termed as TriboE Mask, that can hold electric charges to restrict the entry of infections but interestingly, without any external power.

How they operate or work?

It relies on electrostatics. When two non-conducting layers are rubbed against each other, the layers develop positive and negative charges instantly and continue to hold the charges for some time. This electric field, quite strong at proximity, is used to deactivate or possibly even kill the germs.

Key features of these masks:

  1. The mask is three-layered –a layer of nylon cloth sandwiched between polypropylene layers, the latter sourced from commonly used non woven grocery bags.
  2. In place of nylon, silk fabric from an old saree or shawl may also be cut and used.
  3. When layers are rubbed against each other, the outer layers develop negative charges, while nylon will hold the positive charges.
  4. This will act as double electric wall protection against the infectious entities crossing.
  5. As the mask is made out of commonly available fabrics, it can be washed just like any other cloth and can be reused.

What is triboelectric effects?

Also known as triboelectric charging, it is a type of contact electrification on which certain materials become electrically charged after they are separated from a different material with which they were in contact.

Rubbing the two materials each with the other increases the contact between their surfaces, and hence the triboelectric effect.


A very familiar example could be the rubbing of a plastic pen on a sleeve of almost any typical material like cotton, wool, polyester, or blended fabric used in modern clothing. Such an electrified pen would readily attract and pick up pieces of paper less than a square centimeter when the pen approaches. Also, such a pen will repel a similarly electrified pen.

Insta Links:

Prelims Link:

  1. What is triboelectricity?
  2. Examples of triboelectric effect?
  3. What kind of organisation is CeNS?
  4. Difference between bacteria and virus?

Mains Link:

Discuss the significance of triboelectric effect.

Sources: pib.