A person in a face mask walks by a stall selling toys as the Omicron coronavirus variant continues to spread (Image for representation) (REUTERS)

This new mask will detect coronavirus and alert you on your mobile phone in 10 minutes.

Researchers have created a face mask that can identify common respiratory viruses present in the air as droplets or aerosols, such as the flu and COVID-19. The incredibly sensitive mask can alert users through their mobile devices within 10 minutes if certain viruses are present in the air.

The respiratory bacteria that cause COVID-19 and H1N1 flu release microscopic droplets and aerosols into the air when an infected person speaks, coughs, or sneezes. These virus-containing molecules have long atmospheric residence times, especially tiny aerosols.

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“Previous research has shown that wearing a face mask can reduce the risk of spreading and contracting the disease. So we wanted to create a mask that can detect the presence of the virus in the air and alert the wearer,” says Yin Fang, who is in charge of the study. author and materials scientist from Shanghai Tongji University.

“Our mask will work very well in poorly ventilated areas such as elevators or enclosed spaces where the risk of infection is high,” Fang said. He added that if a new respiratory infection comes up in the future, they can simply redesign the sensor to account for it.

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The team’s next goal is to optimize the design of polymers and transistors to reduce detection time and greatly improve sensor sensitivity. In addition, they are developing wearable medical equipment to treat diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular disease.

The team used aptamers, a kind of synthetic molecule that can recognize certain pathogen proteins, such as antibodies, to create a tiny sensor. The team modified the multichannel sensor in their experimental design so that it can simultaneously recognize the surface proteins of the SARS-CoV-2, H5N1, and H1N1 viruses.

Spraying the mask with liquid and aerosols containing viral surface proteins in a tightly sealed container allowed Fang and his colleagues to test the mask. According to Fang, the volume of fluid released when coughing or talking is much more than 0.3 microliters of liquid containing viral proteins, which is 70 to 560 times less than the volume of a single sneeze. Even smaller amounts of viral proteins elicited a sensor response.

Once the aptamers bind to target proteins in the air, the ion-gate transistor associated with them will amplify the signal and alert wearers via their phones. The mask quickly detects even the smallest levels of airborne viruses thanks to a new and highly sensitive device called an ion gate transistor.

“Currently, physicians rely heavily on their experience in diagnosing and treating diseases. But with the richer data collected by wearable devices, the diagnosis and treatment of diseases can become more accurate,” says Fang.

(With caller ID inputs)

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