This New Face Mask Can Detect Viral Exposure Within 10 Minutes | All You Need To Know

Respiratory pathogens that cause COVID-19 and H1N1 influenza spread through small droplets and aerosols released by infected people when they talk, cough, and sneeze.

By Anushka Vats
Tue, 20 Sep 2022 01:16 PM IST
Minute Read
This New Face Mask Can Detect Viral Exposure Within 10 Minutes | All You Need To Know
Reuters Image used for representation

IN A MAJOR achievement, scientists have developed a mask that can detect the common respiratory viruses, such as influenza and Covid-19, in the air as droplets or aerosols.

Not only this, but the extremely sensitive mask may also inform you about the specific viruses present in the ambient air via your mobile phone within 10 minutes.

"Previous research has shown face mask wearing can reduce the risk of spreading and contracting the disease. So, we wanted to create a mask that can detect the presence of virus in the air and alert the wearer," said Yin Fang, the study's corresponding author and a material scientist at Shanghai Tongji University.

Respiratory pathogens that cause COVID-19 and H1N1 influenza spread through small droplets and aerosols released by infected people when they talk, cough, and sneeze. These virus-containing molecules, especially tiny aerosols, can remain suspended in the air for a long time.

The mask was tested by Fang and his colleagues in an enclosed chamber. In order to test it, they sprayed the viral surface protein containing trace-level liquid and aerosols on the mask. The sensor responded to as little as 0.3 microliters of liquid containing viral proteins, about 70 to 560 times less than the volume of liquid produced in one sneeze and much less than the volume produced by coughing or talking, Fang says.

The team designed a small with aptamers, which are a type of synthetic molecule that can identify unique proteins of pathogens like antibodies. In their proof-of-concept design, the team modified the multi-channel sensor with three types of aptamers, which can simultaneously recognize surface proteins on SARS-CoV-2, H5N1, and H1N1.

Once the apatamers bind to the target proteins in the air, the ion-gated transistor connected will amplify the signal and alert the wearers via their phones. An ion-gated transistor is a highly sensitive device, and so even the trace of pathogens can be detected in the air within 10 minutes.

Fang also added that the mast will perform better in spaces with poor ventilation. "Our mask would work really well in spaces with poor ventilation, such as elevators or enclosed rooms, where the risk of getting infected is high," Fang stated. In the future, if a new respiratory virus emerges, they can easily update the sensor's design for detecting the novel pathogens, he added.

He further explained that the data collected by wearable devices will make the treatment more precise.

"Currently, doctors have been relying heavily on their experiences in diagnosing and treating diseases. But with richer data collected by wearable devices, disease diagnosis and treatment can become more precise," Fang said.

Meanwhile, he also informed that the team is working on decreasing the detection time and increasing the sensitivity. He also mentioned that the team is working on wearable devices for a variety of health conditions including cancers and cardiovascular diseases.

(With inputs from ANI)

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