SFU VentureLabs taps into P.P.E. produced by client company, Flextrapower
SFU VentureLabs client, Flextrapower (formerly Bonbouton), was founded to develop the world’s first smart insole system to help detect inflammation and prevent diabetic amputations. However, when the pandemic struck, founder Linh Le felt the need to respond directly to the crisis.
Flextrapower was born from the research that Le did while studying for his Ph.D. in chemical engineering and materials science in New York. Le began investigating the novel properties and applications of graphene-based technologies while a student before he founded Flextrapower in 2015 to create new biomedical applications.
As is the nature of business in the start-up world, pivoting is usually necessary when the initial idea meets the potential customer, Le and other team members came up with the idea for graphene-infused masks when the pandemic hit. They wanted to provide a better solution not just for the medical community but for the wider population. His initial hypothesis that graphene might have antiviral properties was proven by other scientists in the field.
With ideal properties for tackling viruses, graphene has become the better choice as the next generation in personal protective equipment to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In addition to anti-viral properties at its nanoscale, the graphene nanolayer is infused into a removable filter that’s sandwiched between two other layers, all of which can be washed and reused. Moreover, the filter is built on a hydrophobic, or “rainproof” material, which protects both the wearer and external parties from virus-containing microdroplets (from a sneeze, for example). This modular design helps the wearer as they can continue using the outer mask and only need to replace the filter every 2-3 weeks.
Le reports that the response to the masks has been overwhelmingly positive and applauds his product team in New York who worked with him while he was in Vancouver and pulled in team members from Asia to get the job done. Flextrapower sold $3000 in just the first 24 hours.
“Once we realigned our mission to the team, they worked incredibly hard to get the job done together, regardless of what time zone they’re in,” Le says. “My inspiration has always been to bring high technology products to the market. I’m grateful we are able to do a small part in helping people to protect themselves during these times.”
For Le, the most rewarding part of producing the graphene-infused masks is in its reusability and helping to save the environment from burdening an insurmountable number of disposable masks.
SFU VentureLabs is pleased to support Flextrapower by purchasing the graphene-infused masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.