A fresh new take on pollution masks has been launched by start-up company Airhead, thanks to support from Brunel University London’s designers, researchers and scientists – and is available to those who back its Kickstarter fundraising campaign before 22nd May.
The Airhead mask filters out 99% of small PM2.5 particulates from breathed-in air, and even blocks pollution down to the tiny PM0.3. The team is striving to obtain FFP3 (N99) certification: more stringent than for N95 masks.
What sets this mask apart are clever new features that make it more comfortable to wear and cleaner to use. After in-depth research by the team and Brunel’s experts, the mask offers three radical improvements:
- Revolutionary rear-facing valves quickly move hot air away from your face, keeping you cool.
- A reinvented medical-grade silicone seal ensures no air leakage, for all adult face sizes.
- A clip function allows you to unclip the front of the mask, providing a breeze and a chance to hydrate or snack.
Developed by a group of passionate cyclists who wanted to stay healthy, Airhead was created by Harry Young, Alex Smith and Elliot Denvir as a solution to the unusual conundrum of them breathing polluted air as they cycled to stay fit.
“We understand it’s not the most natural thing to put a mask on your face,” said Smith. “Despite a lot of searching, we never found a mask that met our needs. We know that a lot of the other masks out there are very hot, uncomfortable and embarrassing to wear, and sometimes have gaps in the side, so they don’t even work properly. So we set out to create one.”
To make their idea a reality, they applied to a design support programme called Impacting Business by Design. Spearheaded by three UK universities and funded by Research England, the programme matches start-ups and small businesses with professional design and development teams to make being innovative quicker and less risky.
The Brunel designers, run by principal project lead Ian Ferris, saw the product’s potential and worked with Airhead to develop the mask. “We applied the professional design expertise already here at our university to making the mask the best it could be,” said Ferris. “From developing a brief, through user needs research, product design engineering and more – we have been there every step of the way for Airhead to accelerate their innovation.”
Working alongside Brunel has been a rewarding experience for Airhead’s Smith. “The team at Brunel have gone above and beyond our expectations every step of the way. In addition to designing an incredible product, they’ve also taught us a vast amount about how to bring a product idea to market” he said.
Dr Vanja Garaj, Brunel’s Head of Department for Design, and lead for Brunel’s Impacting Business by Design activity, added: “Impacting Business by Design is the latest of the several industry collaboration programmes we run at Brunel Design, and the Airhead project demonstrates clearly that the academic environment can be very successful in delivering cutting-edge design innovation.”
Crowdfunding on Kickstarter matches Airhead’s mask with a wide range of customers. Well over 1,000 backers have pledged money to fund the production costs, with a range of deals available from individual masks to family packs – ready to be grabbed by the deadline of 22nd May.