University of Wisconsin alumnus Max Bock-Aronson made TIME magazine’s Best Innovation List for his face mask design — a project he started nearly a decade ago.

According to a UW News article, Bock-Aronson first got the idea after traveling to Singapore as a mechanical engineering student, where he had to breathe high levels of polluted air. At the time, Bock-Aronson was studying air pollution, the mechanics of filtration and cultural usage of masks.

The mask-making journey began when he realized masks that are highly effective at filtrating particles were uncomfortable, and surgical and cloth masks worn in Southeast Asia did little to block air pollution, according to UW News. 

His idea was to create an innovative, comfortable and effective face mask. That idea would eventually turn into a product available to purchase from Breathe99, a startup company Brock-Aronson helped found.

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Bock-Aronson credits UW with much of the success he’s had post-graduation, according to UW News. By taking advantage of opportunities on campus, such as the College of Engineering’s 2014 Innovation Days competition, he was able to further his progress making the mask.

When Bock-Aronson began tracking COVID-19 early last year, he realized that his mask design could help protect others against the disease, and in March 2020, Bock-Aronson began working full time for Breathe99.

According to UW News, a key innovation of the mask is the flexible, rubber-like facepiece that creates an airtight seal. The patent-pending face piece holds two replaceable filters that TIME Magazine said are highly effective at filtration and remove about 99.6% of ­particles.

UW chief clinical research officer Betsy Nugent said in an email to The Badger Herald that inventions such as Bock-Aronson’s mask will help the medical field tremendously.

“Innovations like these are what help move health care forward,” Nugent said. 

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According to the Cap Times, Bock-Aronson believes there will still be a market for masks even after the pandemic, and said he’s grateful to be added to the magazine’s list of best innovations for 2020.

According to TIME Magazine, the mask is selling for $59.99 and its filters are each $7.99.  The mask’s facepiece and its fabric overlay are machine-washable.