tbj: How did you come about determining that most people breathe through their nose? What kind of experimentation and data was used to determine this?
FL: It was an epiphany when we realized that most people mainly breathe through their nose. We initially confirmed [this]through empathic design principles by spending a lot of time observing the way people breathe. This might sound silly, but most people don’t think much about the process of breathing. What’s interesting though is when we asked people about how they breathe or when they consciously thought about breathing, they tended to think they use their mouths or in some case actually began to breathe with their mouths.
However, what we found in our observations is that most people, when going about their normal day-to-day activities (we’re not talking about high cardiovascular activities like running), are not thinking about breathing and use their nose to breathe. We also spent a lot of time reading up and researching about nasal breathing to confirm our findings. There’s a lot of information out there. For example, websites like http://www.normalbreathing.com/index-nasal.php, http://www.breathing.com/articles/nose-breathing.htm and http://www.breathingretrainingcenter.com/blog/28-reasons-to-nose-breathe show the benefits from nasal breathing versus mouth breathing. Nasal breathing gives better oxygen delivery to the heart, brain and lungs, helps maintain the optimal mix of O2, CO2, and NO2 in the blood, filters particles (larger than 10 micrometers) and also improves concentration and reduces stress.
tbj: Who did you work with to develop the NoPM filtering technology? Can you explain how it works?
FL: The product was designed in partnership with an industrial design firm headed by one of the founder’s MIT professor. It took over two years of research and development which included both the design and the testing of suitable materials. One of the biggest issues was balancing effectiveness with breathability, which are opposite ends of the same spectrum. We tested many materials, including those used in some of the advanced facemasks and respirators, and were just never happy with either the breathability, level of effectiveness or both. As a result, we decided to work directly with a leading international filtration company to develop a customized filtration media to fit our needs.
The end result is our NoPM™ filtration technology that can block out 99% of air pollution. While we can’t go into the details of our NoPM™ filter technology, as there are certain trade secrets that we hope to protect, what we can say is that it blocks harmful air particles using a variety of well-known filtration mechanisms such as interception, inertial impaction, diffusion and attraction. In addition, we have also subject our material to tests by an independent US 3rd party filtration testing laboratory to confirm its effectiveness. We combined this filtration technology with what appears to be a simple design, yet which includes many small details to maximize comfort and breathability, to develop our Infipure™ Invisible Air Mask.
tbj: How do you account for the air that flows in around the device (which does not fit perfectly in my nostrils) and through the mouth? Can you really claim that Infipure is truly filtering out 99% of PM2.5 particles that a person is breathing in?
FL: Through tests conducted by a US independent third party filtration testing laboratory, the filter material we use in our product can block over 99% of air pollution (including PM2.5) and other harmful air particles. However, there are certain factors that may impact this level of effectiveness. First, as our product is used in the nose, some people may breathe in some particles with their mouth. As mentioned above most breathing occurs through the nose subconsciously. As a result, we encourage people to continue with their normal activities after putting on our product and try not to think about breathing. We also recognize that our product is new and the fact that you have to put it in your nose may be a bit unusual at first. However, we point to when contact lens first appeared on the market and how unusual it must have been for users to have to insert into their eyes but it becomes second nature after a short period.
The other factor that may impact the level of effectiveness is the fit of our product and potential air leakage. An improper fit of our product will cause two issues, discomfort (if it’s too large) or air leakage (if it’s too small). It’s notable that even facemasks may have these issues (see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19598054). For our product, we spent a lot of time measuring people’s noses to size our product so that it would fit as many people as possible. What we found was that noses are pretty unique with no strong correlation between a person’s nostril diameter, septum, flare, or depth.
In the end, we used our findings to finalize three sizes that should fit a large proportion of the population. This is more customized versus a facemask which only comes in one size and can lead to a lot of air leakage. We also tried to account for the fit/leakage problem through certain design aspects. For example, a properly sized Infipure™ Invisible Air Mask should actually be slightly larger than the nostril opening. The filters should then be positioned to cover the nostril opening and then slowly inserted into the nose. Upon insertion, the edges of our soft NoPM™ filter will slightly bend/fold to conform to the shape of the nose. This slight bend/fold in the filter will help to minimize air leakages and provide for a comfortable fit. Also, our NoPM™ filter uses filtration principles such as diffusion and attraction which helps defend again air pollution particles even despite potentially small gaps. In the future, we hope to be able to offer even more customized versions of the Infipure™ Invisible Air Masks to provide even better fit to our customers.
tbj: Is there any particular group or type of user you would NOT recommend Infipure for? Why?
FL: Infipure™ was designed for everyone to wear anytime and anywhere. And although our product helps people with breathing problems, by filtering harmful particles that can trigger asthma symptoms, Infipure™ is not intended as a substitute for a medical device or treatment for those with severe and acute respiratory problems. In addition, our product is not recommended for young children (as it can be a choking hazard if swallowed) and when people have stuffed or runny noses.
tbj: Do you have any other designs in the works? Will you be producing any more conventional masks or other pollution-guarding products?
FL: We definitely have other products/projects in the works. This will include adding new features and also for new demographics (e.g. children). Please stay tuned to our website at www.infipure.com (to be launched in the next few weeks) to find out our latest news and product releases.
tbj: Have you received any other feedback from users that you’d like to share with our readers?
FL: Yes, we’ve received a lot of positive feedback regarding the look, comfort, breathability and effectiveness of the Infipure™ Invisible Air Masks. People love the fact that our product is nearly invisible and how this makes our product so convenient (e.g. you can wear it a lot of different settings including indoors, when talking to people, and even when you are out at a club!). People have also commented on the effectiveness of the Infipure™ Invisible Air Masks with examples of the filters turning dirty/gray after a day of use and also how it’s helped block against second hand smoke.
On the other hand, we’ve also received some helpful customer comments/inquiries. For example, people wonder about the thin and light nature of our filters. For us, this is one of our product’s strengths. While many other facemasks are marketed based on the number of layers they have in their facemasks, we spent a lot of time developing our NoPM™ filter to be thin and light in order to provide maximum comfort and breathability.
The other comment we’ve heard and which we recognized from the beginning is that our product requires a slight adjustment period. Initially it feels awkward to have something in your nose, but after a few minutes you get used to it. What helps is trying to not think about breathing by continuing with your normal activities. What can also help with the adjustment period is after using the Infipure™ Invisible Air Mask for a few minutes, take it out for a few minutes then retry.
So there you have it – Infipure is definitely an intriguing new product in this very important market and our conclusion is that given the manufacturer’s claims, their small size and reasonable price they are worth a try (you can purchase them here), but but you’ll have to judge for yourself if you can really stand to have them stuck up your nose. Please feel free to give us your take below.