Ali Alamzadeh and Sharonna Chan may have the ticket to a bug-free Olympics— that is if they can get the word out in time.
The two Emily Carr University students created Papillon, a lightweight mosquito-protection jacket, in response to a school project about clothing design.
“We noticed that there is something that is a really serious issue out there—and that’s viruses,” Chan said alongside design partner Alamzadeh during an interview with the Georgia Straight. The World Health Organization condemns the mosquito as the greatest culprit for disease transmission—known for spreading malaria and dengue and yellow fevers. “We thought, ‘Hey, what if we could [actually] prevent the mosquitos from biting us?’ ”
“People use mosquito nets to protect themselves at night. But during the day they have really no protection,” she explained.
Papillon—the French word for butterfly—came in response to the project's visual inspiration: the glasswing butterfly.
With the world looking to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympics and Paralympics, a prominent issues associated with the events is the Zika virus outbreak— another mosquito-borne illness.
“Getting it to the Olympics might be a little tight right now,” Chan said. The Papillon portfolio highlights pictures of tourists lounging in swimwear and cheering in stadiums, pointing to large areas of exposed skin that could be easily bitten by a disease-carrying mosquito.
“We looked at the existing forms [of protection] and noticed that they all seemed to contact your skin,” she continued. “So we thought about the technology of: ‘What if you had this air barrier all around you,’ so then the mosquito would just land on the mesh and they couldn’t actually bite you.”
The pair has already found a lighter mesh for their materials, and their plans for the second prototype include eliminating the heaviest part of the design: the zipper.
Despite the possible commercial applicability of the design, Alamzadeh and Chan are firmly focused on charity. “We wanted to have our design collaborate with organizations like Unicef. Basically, we didn’t want to have it as our own business,” Alamzadeh said. “We even contacted the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.”
But Alamzadeh thinks that the design could already be in use virtually everywhere. “We were even thinking of other purposes, like camping. It shouldn’t just be for developing countries,” he said, pointing to the small cost of materials.
Alamzadeh said the pair is still looking for funding to bring Papillon to a worldwide stage and to its full potential.