The Nerd Side Of Life

Scientists Are Working on a New Mask that Will Light Up When it Detects Coronavirus

There are many inventions that are very useful and use a vibrant notification when detecting harmful substances. There’s a nail polish that can detect a drink that has been tampered with and even condoms that change colors when they come in contact with STIs. Now researchers are attempting to make a mask that will light up when coming in contact with COVID-19 which will alert the wearer of the mask if they have been infected.

Harvard and MIT are hard at work developing this new mask. They hope to have the prototype ready in the next few weeks. For the past six years, bioengineers at MIT and Harvard have been developing sensors that can detect viruses including the ones that cause Zika and Ebola. So integrating COVID-19 should not prove to be too difficult. Currently they are only applying the sensors to the inside of the mask so when the wearer breathes or coughs it will let them know if they have it. But hopefully they will also be creating masks that have detection capabilities on the outside as well.

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“As we open up our transit system, you could envision it being used in airports as we go through security, as we wait to get on a plane,” Collins told Business Insider. “You or I could use it on the way to and from work. Hospitals could use it for patients as they come in or wait in the waiting room as a pre-screen of who’s infected.”

This would be a preferred method for doctors who currently have to send the test off to the lab to get results. And definitely a preferred method for potential carriers. While the test for COVID-19 isn’t painful it is definitely awkward.

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Collins’ sensors consist of genetic material — DNA and RNA — that binds to a virus. That material is freeze-dried onto fabric using a machine called a lyophilizer, which sucks moisture out of the genetic material without killing it. It can remain stable at room temperature for several months, giving the masks a relatively long shelf life.

The sensors need two things to be activated. The first is moisture, which our bodies give off through respiratory particles like mucus or saliva. Second, they need to detect a virus’ genetic sequence.

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While it is in the “Very early stages” we’re hopeful that this will come out for public use within the next 4 or 5 months. Read more about it here.

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