Inventor of the N95 mask is coming out of retirement to help make them better
via Dave Yen / Twitter

Over the past few weeks, the N95 respirator has gone from gear worn by people working in hospitals or on industrial sites to something you see your neighbor wearing when they're walking their dog.

The tight-fitting mask with a pliable metal piece near the nose does a lot more than provide a protective barrier for the mouth and nose.

According to The University of Tennessee, it "uses an electric field to ionize the neutral air to generate ions and electrons, which then charge the nonwoven fibers through field and induction."


The N95 respirator is one of the biggest heros of the COVID-95 pandemic because it has prevented countless people from spreading and contracting the deadly virus. It has also made it possible for healthcare workers to work closely with people who've been infected without contracting the virus themselves.

The "N" in the respirator's name stands for "not resistant to oil," and "95" is because it has the ability to remove at least 95% of submicron particles, such as viruses, from the air.

via Alamosa County Public Health / Flickr

It was invented by material scientist and engineer Peter Tsai and his team at the University of Tennessee in 1992 in an attempt to develop electrostatic filtration technology. The respirator would go on to be used in industrial settings until it was later discovered to be effective at preventing the spread of diseases in medical settings.

The N95 received a U.S. patent in 1995.

Tsai is a world-renowned expert in nonwoven fabrics and was a professor at the University of Tennessee's Material Sciences and Engineering Department for 35 years before retiring last year.

However, his retirement was short-lived.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he's come out of retirement to find new ways of sterilizing his respirators so the single-use masks can be used for longer periods of time.

"I just want to help people, and just do my job," Tsai said in an interview with NPR.

via Red River College / Flickr

The N95 masks are in short supply across the world, so many people are using chemicals such as alcohol and bleach to sanitize them for reuse. But that can cause them to deteriorate and become ineffective.

So researchers from around the globe have been filling Tsai's inbox for suggestions on how to sterilize their masks.

Among those who've been experimenting on ways to sterilize the masks is a collective known as N95DECON that's been working with heat, a form of ultraviolet light, and hydrogen peroxide vapor.

Maha Krishnamoorthi, vice president of the University of Tennessee Research Foundation, calls Tsai that a "rock-star" and says he's become the "man of the hour" during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"And he said, 'No — I'm man of the minute,'" Tsai told Krishnamoorthi according to NPR. Tsai believes that the people wearing his masks are the real heroes.

"The front-line hospital workers — they are heroes," Tsai said. "I'm just trying to help them to wear the mask."

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Often, parents of children with special needs struggle to find Halloween costumes that will accommodate medical equipment or provide a proper fit. And figuring out how to make one? Yikes.

There's good news; shopDisney has added new ensembles to their already impressive line of adaptive play costumes. And from 8/30 - 9/26, there's a 20% off sale for all costume and costume accessory orders of $75+ with code Spooky.

When looking for the right costume, kids with unique needs have a lot of extra factors to consider: wheelchair wheels get tangled up in too-long material, feeding tubes could get twisted the wrong way, and children with sensory processing disorders struggle with the wrong kind of fabric, seams, or tags. There are a lot of different obstacles that can come between a kid and the ability to wear the costume of their choice, which is why it's so awesome that more and more companies are recognizing the need for inclusive creations that make it easy for everyone to enjoy the magic of make-believe.

Created with inclusivity in mind, the adaptive line is designed to discreetly accommodate tubes or wires from the front or the back, with lots of stretch, extra length and roomier cut, and self-stick fabric closures to make getting dressed hassle-free. The online shop provides details on sizing and breaks down the magical elements of each outfit and accessory, taking the guesswork out of selecting the perfect costume for the whole family.

Your child will be able to defeat Emperor Zurg in comfort with the Buzz Lightyear costume featuring a discreet flap opening at the front for easy tube access, with self-stick fabric closure. There is also an opening at the rear for wheelchair-friendly wear, and longer-length inseams to accommodate seated guests. To infinity and beyond!

An added bonus: many of the costumes offer a coordinating wheelchair cover set to add a major boost of fun. Kids can give their ride a total makeover—all covers are made to fit standard size chairs with 24" wheels—to transform it into anything from The Mandalorian's Razor Crest ship to Cinderella's Coach. Some options even come equipped with sounds and lights!

From babies to adults and adaptive to the group, shopDisney's expansive variety of Halloween costumes and accessories are inclusive of all.

Don't forget about your furry companions! Everyone loves to see a costumed pet trotting around, regardless of the occasion. You can literally dress your four-legged friend to look like Sven from Frozen, which might not sound like something you need in your life but...you totally do. CUTENESS OVERLOAD.

This year has been tough for everyone, so when a child gets that look of unfettered joy that comes from finally getting to wear the costume of their dreams, it's extra rewarding. Don't wait until the last minute to start looking for the right ensemble!


*Upworthy may earn a portion of sales revenue from purchases made through affiliate links on our site.

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This article originally appeared on 03.19.15


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