Chinese scientists design virus-detecting face mask



The Manila Times

Asia And Oceania

BEIJING: A group of Chinese scientists has developed a face mask that can detect viral exposure from a wearer’s 10-minute conversation with an infected person. Respiratory pathogens that cause Covid-19 and influenza spread through small droplets and aerosols released by infected people when they talk, cough and sneeze. The wearable bioelectronic mask designed by researchers from Tongjin University in Shanghai can detect common respiratory viruses, as well as the coronavirus, in the droplets or aerosols in the air, and then alert the wearer via his or her mobile devices. The mask is capable of measuring trace-level liquid samples of 0.3 microliters and gaseous samples at an ultra-low concentration of 0.1 femtograms per milliliter, according to a study published in the journal Matter this week. The detection benchmark for liquid containing viral proteins in an enclosed chamber is “about 70 to 560 times less than the volume of liquid produced in one sneeze and much less than the volume produced by coughing or talking,” said the paper’s corresponding author and Tongji professor Fang Yin. Fang’s team designed a small sensor carrying three types of synthetic molecules that can simultaneously recognize surface proteins on SARSCoV-2, H5N1, and H1N1. Once those molecules click onto the target proteins, an ion-gated transistor integrated into the mask will amplify the signal and alert the wearers, according to the study. The designers said they could easily update the wearable device to detect new respiratory viruses.