The Tokyo Tech Museum and Archives and the Meguro City Board of Education (BOE) offered another unique lecture to members of the public on February 5. The topic for this winter’s timely event was nanofibers and new virus-capturing mask technology.
The Museum has been working with the central Tokyo BOE since 2010 to share valuable information with the broader community. Much like last year, this year’s event was held under uncertain conditions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but 30 people applied for the in-person session. While the actual number of participants was slightly lower than this, the audience showed keen interest in the topics and continued to asked questions actively until the end of the session.
To kick things off, Tokyo Tech Museum and Archives Researcher Chisako Miyamae gave a brief outline of the museum and highlighted some of its recent updates.
Miyamae’s introduction was followed by a lecture by Tokyo Tech Professor Emeritus and Zetta Ltd. Chief Technology Officer Akihiko Tanioka. Tanioka first spoke about his life as a researcher, and then outlined recent advances in nanofibers and a virus-blocking molecular mask developed by Zetta Ltd., a Tokyo Tech-born startup company.
Together with his colleagues, Tanioka has developed a washable nanofiber material that can be attached to cloth masks, significantly enhancing their performance against viruses. The Z-Mask utilizes nanofibers with a diameter of 0.08 to 0.4 μm, meaning it can block effectively the novel coronavirus and other viruses smaller than 0.1 μm. Because the new mask uses molecular attraction to catch viruses, its performance does not deteriorate unless the fiber is broken.
Tanioka began his journey as a researcher when he was a student at Tokyo Tech in the 1970s. His talk on the various turning points during his career left a strong impression on the participants. The audience was keen to learn whether Tanioka could utilize the findings of his previous research despite the changes in direction he has taken throughout his career.
“I used to think that if you conduct outstanding research, you will be recognized in the world. However, I was wrong about this. You also need a good partner to help you pitch your research to a broader audience,” Tanioka explained. The Tokyo Tech alumnus also shared his thoughts on how such partners can be found, mixing in small doses of humor to put his audience at ease.
In collaboration with the broader community, the Tokyo Tech Museum and Archives continues to share valuable information with the public despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.