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Chinese researchers develop smart mask that can detect COVID, Flu

Dozens of Covid protesters still behind bars in China: HRW
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Chinese scientists have developed a smart face mask that can detect airborne viruses, such as COVID and the flu. The findings of the research were published in the Journal Matter.

It is a wearable bioelectronic mask able to detect any airborne respiratory disease even in ultra-low concentrations in liquid or gas.

Smart mask can detect COVID and show warning sign

The mask acts as a preliminary warning sign that can help to curb the outbreak of COVID. It is connected to electronic devices and the sensor issues an alert if a virus is detected.

“Previous research has shown face mask wearing can reduce the risk of spreading and contracting the disease,” said Yin Fang, Shanghai Tongji University’s material scientist, and a corresponding research author.

“So, we wanted to create a mask that can detect the presence of virus in the air and alert the wearer,” he shared. Fang claims the face mask would work better in enclosed spaces, as they present a higher risk for the transmission of viruses.

How does the bioelectronic mask work?

The mask is able to detect most respiratory viruses in the air in either droplets or aerosols. This is how diseases such as COVID-19 or H1N1 (swine flu) usually spread. “Our mask would work really well in spaces with poor ventilation, such as elevators or enclosed rooms,” Fang said.

The team of scientists at the university created a tiny sensor with aptamers – a type of synthetic particle that can determine unusual proteins of pathogens, just like antibodies.

The types of aptamers used to identify the surface proteins were SARS-CoV-2, H5N1, and H1N1. A transistor on the face mask’s sensor is activated once the aptamers attach to the target proteins. It sends a warning to the mask wearer’s phone within 10 minutes.

“Doctors have been relying heavily on their experiences in diagnosing and treating diseases. But with richer data collected by wearable devices, disease diagnosis and treatment can become more precise,” Fang said.

His research team wishes to reduce the detection time and improve the sensitivity of the sensor in future.

About the author

Jike Eric

Jike Eric has completed his degree program in Chemical Engineering. Jike covers Business and Tech news on Insider Paper.

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