Scientists have developed a mask that can detect coronavirus in just 10 minutes.
The highly sensitive face covering can detect new bugs in the air and alert the wearer via an app on their phone. It can also pick up swine flu and bird flu.
Those diseases are spread through droplets in the air released when infected people talk, cough or sneeze.
Tiny, invisible molecules can hang in the air for long periods of time and people catch diseases by breathing in a large group of hidden molecules.
Researchers in China tested masks in an enclosed chamber by spraying a liquid containing virus proteins on face coverings.
The sensor responded only to 0.3 microliters of liquid.
That is, 70 to 560 times less than the amount of fluid released from a sneeze and less than the amount produced by coughing or talking.
The sensor consists of aptamers, a type of synthetic molecule that can identify proteins in pathogens.
They tested their model with aptamers that can recognize COVID-19, swine flu and bird flu.
Once the aptamers bind to virus proteins in the air, a gadget called an ion-gated transistor alerts wearers to pathogens via their phones.
Study related author Dr Yin Fang, from Shanghai Tongji University, said: “Previous research has shown that wearing a face mask can reduce the risk of spreading and contracting disease.
“We wanted to make a mask that could detect the presence of the virus in the air and alert the wearer.
“Our mask would work really well in places with poor ventilation, such as elevators or enclosed rooms, where the risk of getting infected is high.
“In the future, if a new respiratory virus emerges, we can easily update the design of the sensor to detect novel pathogens.”
The team now wants to make masks detect diseases even faster and make wearable devices that can help people manage cancer and other diseases such as heart disease.
The findings were published in the journal Case,
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