Scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University are working on a face mask with sensors that can detect the coronavirus and emit a fluorescent signal.
The technology exists and has been tested with other viruses, such as Zika and Ebola, but now it can work with Covid-19.
The project is in the hands of the professor of Medical Engineering and Science and Biological Engineering at MIT, as well as a member of the Harvard-MIT School of Health Sciences and Technology, bioengineer James Collins.
The goal is for the mask to signal when the infected person breathes, coughs, or sneezes and the saliva makes contact with the sensors. To do this, you need to detect the genetic sequence of the virus.
“The sensors consist of genetic material, DNA, and RNA, which binds to a virus. That material is lyophilized on the fabric using a machine called a lyophilizer, which absorbs moisture from the genetic material without killing it, “Collins explained to Business Insider.
For the scientist, this equipment will be useful for the early detection of the coronavirus: “As we open our transit system, I could imagine that it will be used at airports as we move forward in security, while we wait to board a plane.”
But in addition, the mask would be used at work, or “hospitals could use it for patients when they enter or wait in the room as a preliminary test of who is infected.”
As for design, it is debated whether to place the sensors inside the mask or create a device that connects to any over-the-counter mask. Collins is confident that the model will be ready in the next few weeks, to carry out the trials with Covid-19 patients.
The MIT professor explains that the fluorescent signal is not visible to the naked eye, but people could use flour to scan the masks. However, they also study using sensors that change color from yellow to purple.