A face mask with an integrated virus sensor now can detect the coronavirus after 10 minutes of conversation with someone who is infected.
The mask will send a signal to the smartphone connected to the person wearing that mask, informing if the virus is around in the air.
“The early results are only based on the detection of the coronavirus and not all the viruses. As of now the technology is at the developing phase and yet to be tested,” said Yin Fang from Tongji University in China.
The team previously developed N95 types of mask that could detect three viruses, two flu strains, H5N1 and H1N1, and SARS-CoV-2, the covid-19.
The mask contains aptamers, short strands of DNA or RNA that can be designed to bind specific proteins. If the aptamers bind to their target proteins, their electrical charge will change and an electrical chip in the mask will send a signal to the designated smartphones.
For the testing, the mask was places in a sealed container which had similar protein solution that is found in an infected person to detect the virus. As little as 0.1 femtograms (0.0000000000000001 grammes) of protein per milliliter of fluid could be detected by the system after 10 minutes.
According to Fang, the mask may be advantageous for individuals who spend time in enclosed environments with inadequate ventilation. “We can use this innovative technology to safeguard people.”
How frequently the mask will give false signals when it comes in contact with a signal, has not yet been tested by the researchers.
The concept has potential, but Al Edwards from the University of Reading in the UK says more research is necessary.