Discover: Why silk is among best for face masks

Discover Magazine talked to University of Cincinnati biologist about why silk works better than other materials in making homemade face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infections.

Guerra, an assistant professor of biology in UC’s College of Arts and Sciences, conducted tests using cotton, silk and synthetics.

Guerra became interested in helping to find a solution to a national shortage of personal protective equipment at the start of the global pandemic to protect medical professionals like his wife.

Guerra, an expert in moths and butterflies, is familiar with the amazing natural properties of silk used in their cocoons.

“The caterpillars basically build these hydrophobic layers so they’re all cozy in their own sleeping bag,” Guerra told Discover. “And then if it rains, it takes a lot of saturation to water log it.”

Guerra and his postdoctoral researcher, Adam Parlin, conducted experiments in his lab that found silk worked better than cotton or synthetics are repelling moisture. The study was published in the journal Plos One.

Read the Discover story.

Patrick Guerra holds a mesh container with two monarch butterflies.

UC assistant professor Patrick Guerra talks to Discover Magazine about why silk face masks might work better than cotton or synthetics at repelling coronavirus. Photo/Lisa Ventre/UC Creative + Brand

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