We all know that face mask can reduce the risk of infection. But can a face mask determine if you are infected or not? Yes, you can as a group of scientists have now developed a face mask that can detect common respiratory viruses, including influenza and the coronavirus, in the air in droplets or aerosols.
The highly sensitive mask, presented September 19 in the journal Matter, can also give an alert in mobvile device of the wearer within ten minutes if targeted pathogens are present in the surrounding air.
Respiratory pathogens that cause COVID-19 and H1N1 influenza spread through small droplets and aerosols released by infected people when they talk, cough, and sneeze. These virus-containing molecules, especially tiny aerosols, can remain suspended in the air for a long time.
Material scientist at Shanghai Tongji University Yin Fang ( Study’s corresponding author) and his colleagues tested the mask in an enclosed chamber by spraying the viral surface protein containing trace-level liquid and aerosols on the mask. “The sensor responded to as little as 0.3 microliters of liquid containing viral proteins, 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,” Fang said.
He further said that the masks would work well in spaces with poor ventilation, such as elevators or enclosed rooms, where the risk of getting infected is high. He added that if a new respiratory virus emerges, they can easily update the sensor’s design for detecting the novel pathogens,.
“Currently, 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 says.
the team hopes to shorten the detection time and further increase the sensitivity of the sensor by optimizing the design of the polymers and transistors. They are also working on wearable devices for a variety of health conditions including cancers and cardiovascular diseases.