The Efficiency of Different Mask Types at Reducing Airflow


  • Jenny Choi
  • Jason Duong
  • Emily Eng
  • Clara Kim


The purpose of enforcing mask-wearing during a global pandemic is to protect others from the
wearer by filtering air from the interior to the exterior of the mask. Although surgical masks have
been distributed and worn since the beginning of the pandemic, other popular methods of mask
wearing have surfaced since, such as wearing fabric masks and stacking surgical masks.
However, the efficacy between different mask types is still unclear. By using the distance that a
ping pong ball travels from the airflow coming through the different masks, we investigated the
efficiency of different mask types at reducing airflow. Human airflow (ex. sneezing, coughing,
breathing) was mimicked using a hairdryer since it was difficult to use human subjects during the
pandemic. It was hypothesized that if the mask is most effective at reducing airflow from the
interior to the exterior of the mask, then it will have the least distance travelled by the ping pong
ball. Altogether, it was determined that the surgical masks were least efficient whereas the
doubled-up surgical masks were most efficient at reducing airflow, confirmed by non-parametric
one-way ANOVA testing (p-value = 3E-14).