Team researchers of Harvard and MIT are working on a face mask which upon detection of coronavirus, lights up.
A face mask was used to detect Ebola and Zika virus previously. This technology is being modified to be used for corona virus. The mask will produce a fluorescent signal when It detects coronavirus. If a person with corona breaths, coughs or sneezes the virus spreads in the air. The mask will detect it and lights up.
This mask will also light up when the saliva comes in contact with the fabric, if COVID-19 positive. The mask produces fluorescent signal if the saliva contains coronavirus.
James Colin, an MIT professor of bio-engineering involved with the project, says that if the development of mask becomes successful, this will be very useful against corona virus as it will allow quick detection and greater accuracy.
As coronavirus stays in the body without any symptoms for some days, it is most likely that people may spread it and would be unaware of it. This mask can be used to check for coronavirus in a person’s own body along with alerting other people from the corona patients in contact.
Also, this mask can be used as a corona test. It would be faster test instead of analyzing the samples in laboratory. Doctors can use this mask to detect any corona patients in waiting room as a prescreen of who is infected?
Collin says that this project is in “early stages” but the results are hopeful. His team is working on testing the virus in saliva sample. The team is also experimenting with designs. It is also under consideration that whether the sensor is fixed inside the mask or making a module which can be placed on any face mask.
The sensor consists of genetic material, DNA and RNA, that is attached to a virus. This material is Freeze-dried using a machine called Lyophilizer. It sucks the moisture out of genetic material but does not kill it. It can survive on room temperature for several months.
It needs two things to work. One is moisture which our body provides as saliva or respiratory particles. The other is they need to detect a virus genetic sequence.
As the fluorescent signal is invisible from naked eye. There must be some way to observe that signal. Using microscope will be a very time taking process and also it is not available everywhere nor everybody can use it. So, the scientists are using Flourimeters to measure fluorescent light. It is a lab device but public can use handheld flourimeters which cost worth a dollar each.
The WHO Chief scientist said that the virus would take 4-5 years to be controlled. It is very important to make something which can detect the virus immediately to keep corona patients away from crowded places and other people.
This mask will allow people to test themselves for the virus infection. The test taken from this mask will have following qualities:
It will be quick, cheap, accurate and will not need any specializations. Also, this test can be conducted anywhere. Otherwise
If the World has to continue with the virus, this sensor would be very useful in places where large number of people gather like shopping malls and churches can use it which will be helpful in social distancing.