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Rolling out a paper-based medical gown

Rolling out a paper-based medical gown

The  novel gown.

As mass shortages, poorly manufactured and misused personal protective equipment (PPE) continues to plague many countries in their fight against COVID-19, Australian researchers have come up with a simple, cost-effective and industrially scalable solution to keep health workers and patients safe.

The researchers based at Monash University's Bioresource Processing Institute of Australia (BioPRIA), and the ARC Industrial Transformation Hub for Processing Lignocellulosic into High Value Products (PALS), have created medical gowns for health care workers and first responders using paper laminated with a coating of polyethylene – a lightweight thermoplastic.

This is the first time that paper has been successfully used to produce medical gowns with viral protection. The researchers say that paper could be the missing element in creating affordable alternative materials for PPE to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and as it is easily available, it could enable a mass rollout of high-quality PPE to vulnerable communities across the world.

'The global pandemic, spike in demand, and shortage of traditional PPE materials suitable for viral transmission protection has driven researchers, virologists and biomedical experts to collaborate and explore low-cost alternative materials for medical gowns and other PPE,' says Professor Gil Garnier, Director of the ARC PALS Hub.

‘In the absence of genuine and appropriate PPE, many workers have adopted makeshift solutions, such as wearing plastic garbage bags as gowns, which fail to provide any protection and contribute to the spread of COVID-19.’

Working with their industrial partners, the research team engineered virus safe medical gowns using bleached Kraft paper and newsprint paper as the base materials, coated with layers of polyethylene.

By testing different formulations for viral protection using a fluorescent DNA virus, they identified an ideal combination of paper and polyethylene that has high tensile and seam strength and low water vapour transmission rate, while hindering viral penetration.


In partnership with an industrial consortium, the research team has designed a simple, cost-effective and scalable paper-based medical gown that can be distributed globally in the battle against COVID-19.

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