Mask sensor to detect and track coronavirus in development

January 29, 2021
Mask sensor to detect and track coronavirus in development

The University of California, San Diego (UCSD) has been awarded US$1.3 million by The National Institutes of Health to develop a mask sensor that detects the presence of the novel coronavirus. The lightweight sensor would be attached to face masks to monitor a person’s breath or saliva for virus-related molecules.

The sensor will also detect virus molecules expelled by someone else and possibly inhaled by the wearer of the mask.

“This would be a way of identifying outbreaks early. We’re repurposing something that people are already wearing to sort of monitor the environment,”said Jesse Jokerst, professor of nanoengineering at UCSD.

The sensor, contained in a test strip, is designed to change colour when squeezed by the wearer, denoting a positive reading. The wearer will then have to take a test to confirm the infection.

The initial process is similar to the one used to check results in a home pregnancy test, and is meant to be useful in contact tracing.

UCSD has developed a variety of sensors to detect the spread of the coronavirus – it expects the mask sensor to be ready for use later this year.

UCSD began placing sensors in its waste water system last year, to monitor for the presence of the virus in sewage coming out of specific buildings. When there’s a positive reading, UCSD alerts people who might have been using the buildings at specific times and asks them to get a COVID-19 test.

The early warning system is the largest of its kind at an American university and is likely to be in use for quite a while.

Category: Features, Technology & Devices

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