Scientists in China have developed a mask that can detect common respiratory viruses such as the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) and influenza (H5N1 and H1N1) in the air.
The highly sensitive mask can warn the wearer, via mobile phone, that there is a pathogenic microorganism around. Ten minutes of conversation with an infected person is enough for the mask to detect the microbe in the droplets of air that he exhales.
The researchers, led by Dr. Yin Fang of Tongji University in Shanghai, made the relevant publication in the journal for new materials “Matter”. The mask has a small special sensor with a synthetic molecule that “captures” the unique proteins of a pathogenic virus in the air, even in imperceptible amounts, much smaller than those contained in a cough or sneeze. When the sensor detects the virus, a transistor in the mask amplifies the signal and sends the relevant warning to the mobile phone of the person wearing the mask.
“Our mask works really well in poorly ventilated spaces, such as elevators or closed rooms, where the risk of contamination is high,” said Fang. He added that if a new respiratory virus emerges in the future, the sensor can easily be modified to detect the new microorganism as well.
The researchers hope to improve the mask, further reducing the minimum virus detection time and increasing the sensitivity of the sensor.
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