Haifeng ZhangProfessor Haifeng Zhang recently received a new $120,000 two-year grant from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Center, a research agency under the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to help create better masks for mine workers.

“Each year, 10 percent of the deaths of mine workers result from a mask leak,” said Zhang, a faculty member in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. “The leak causes particles to enter into the lungs, which could then cause respiratory problems and a possible loss of life. Our goal is to solve this problem and help keep them safe while on the job.”

Zhang aims to develop a new sensor that could be embedded into the mask mine workers wear. The sensor would be wireless and provide real-time monitoring for particle leakage and would alert the wearer when it is time to replace the mask.

“Currently, there aren’t any devices or sensors that could be embedded into the mask, which is what makes this project unique,” he said.

Much of Zhang’s work at UNT consists of helping create safer environments for workers. A previous grant in 2019 aimed to create a sensor that could detect deviations from normal operating conditions in nuclear power plants.