A group of scientists at Washington University have created an air sensor that may notify people within five minutes if SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is present. The researchers demonstrated the monitor’s capacity to detect as low as tens of virus particles in a cubic meter in an article that appeared in Nature Communications on Monday. In order to assist stop the spread of COVID-19, they want to commercialize the air monitor so that it may be installed in public places like hospitals and classrooms.
Rajan Chakrabarty, an associate professor of energy, environmental, and chemical engineering at the university’s McKelvey School of Engineering, stated, “This is like finding a needle in a haystack.” “This comes under the category of pandemic preparedness. Devices capable of real-time observation are necessary.
A COVID-19 Viral Air Detector
Approximately 1,000 liters of air per minute are drawn into the monitor for it to function. Aerosols that have accumulated inside a fluid where a sensor is located are trapped by the rapid speed. Virus particles then attach to a sensor protein that recognizes the COVID-19 spike protein. Finally, a voltage that modifies the virus particle’s charge is supplied, and the sensor picks up that electrical change. The monitor notifies you when the room needs more airflow by turning from green to red.
The monitor was put through its paces in the bedrooms of COVID-19 positive patients, where it successfully identified the virus. With contrast, with samples of air free of viruses, the monitor found none. According to John Cirrito, a professor of neurology at the Washington University School of Medicine, that was the device’s first real-world test. “It took a lot of preparation for us to arrive there. That moment when you realize everything you’ve done up until this point actually works was when we demonstrated that we could genuinely identify virus in the air of a sick person.
The monitor will soon be commercialized so it may be used in public settings, according to the researchers, Carla Yuede, an associate professor of psychiatry at the School of Medicine, Chakrabarty, and Cirrito. They intend to increase the monitor’s functionality in the coming months to include testing for additional diseases like influenza and the respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV.
“We think that monitoring it and being able to know in real-time or nearly real-time what’s going on, what the health of that space is, is critical and really important if you really want to mitigate virus spread,” Cirrito said.