The Indian Olympic Association will let a few athletes test a battery-operated face mask made by an Indian Insitute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur alumni. The masks are said to be the best in ensuring optimum oxygen.
IOA Secretary General Rajeev Mehta said the battery-operated masks, which cost around Rs 2,200 each, will be trialled first on a few Olympic-bound athletes.
According to a PTI report, the IOA has tied up with IIT Kharagpur's Piyush Agarwal, who currently owns a startup PQR Technology and has got government funding under the 'KAWACH Mask Project'.
Agarwal's start-up is currently attached with IIT Delhi. He has been in the business of designing and manufacturing masks for the last two years, starting first with pollution masks.
"If the athletes feel comfortable in the trial, we will order 1,000 masks initially. We are hoping to give the masks to 10-15 athletes initially for trial. We will start the trial in 10 days," Mehta told PTI.
Agarwal claimed his masks will serve two purposes -- save athletes from COVID-19 and allow them to do intense training thanks to a design which allows better oxygen intake than other masks.
How do the masks work?
Each mask has two respiratory valves with a fan on both sides. These fans do not produce any sound. The left valve will be used for inhalation while the right will be used for exhalation.
The batteries can be tied to the waist or arms of the athletes through a cord. Once charged, they will last eight hours. According to Agarwal, these masks are one-of-kind since there is no other mask in the world that offers a better intake of oxygen. It will be safe for the athletes to wear these masks and continue intensive training.
"A normal human being requires 8 litres of air but an athlete, during training, needs 15-20 litres. These masks will allow maximum oxygen for inhalation and so they should not face any problem," said Agarwal.
Some medical experts have expressed fear that some amount of carbon dioxide may remain inside the masks during exhalation. Speaking to Tribune, Sumit Arora, a sports science expert associated with the Manav Rachna Sports Science Centre, said athletes training with a mask on may not be the right solution.
“We do have examples like the elevation masks or anaerobic training, where athletes are gradually trained to use less and less oxygen. But the drawback of using masks with valves is that there always is air resistance,” Arora explained.
However, Agarwal has said that fans in each valve are powerful enough to ensure that there is no residue.
"A normal household exhaust fan has around 4000 rpm (revolutions per minute) but the fans in these masks have 8500 rpm, so there is no chance of any carbon dioxide remaining," he said.
According to Mehta, if the athletes feel comfortable in the trial, IOA will order 1000 masks initially. It is hoping to give the masks to 10-15 athletes initially for trial and will begin the trial in 10 days.