The mask of the future
Covid, masks removed too soon? Expert opinion
Highly sensitive and “intelligent”, the mask created by scientists from Shanghai Tongji University is able to warn the wearer, via their mobile devices, if there are infections, common viruses or coronaviruses in the air in the form of droplets or aerosols. “Previous research has shown that wearing a face mask can reduce the risk of spread and make it less likely to contract the disease. So, we wanted to create one that can detect the presence of viruses in the air and alert the wearer,” said Yin Fang. , lead author of the study To test its effectiveness, Fand and colleagues sprayed it with a protein that covers the outer surface of a viral agent containing liquid in the form of traces and aerosols.
In order to detect the particles, the team designed a small sensor with aptamers, synthetic molecules capable of identifying unique pathogen proteins, such as antibodies. The highly advanced sensor responded to a minimum of 0.3 microliters of liquid containing viral proteins, far less than the volume of liquid produced by a sneeze, or what is obtained by talking or coughing. But how does the mask manage to recognize particles in the air? Thanks to the aptamers that, by binding in the air to proteins, send a signal to a connected device that amplifies the signal and warns, via phones, those who wear the masks.
The words of scientists
“Our mask would work very well in spaces with poor ventilation, such as elevators or closed rooms, where the risk of getting infected is high,” added Fang. The new, highly sensitive device could be easily adapted in the future, should it emerge. a new respiratory virus. Researchers stressed that by updating the sensor design, it could be recalibrated to detect new pathogens. For the future, researchers aim to improve the device by reducing detection time and increasing its sensitivity.