An air-sampling machine for COVID detection
In just five minutes, a small tabletop device can spot tiny amounts of the COVID-19 virus. Wondering about virus presence in a room? A new air-capturing device could provide answers, quickly detecting coronavirus.
Slightly bigger than a toaster, the device can detect 7-35 virus particles per cubic meter in five minutes. Rajan Chakrabarty compares it to PCR tests. Published on July 10 in Nature Communications by his team at Washington University.
A challenge was getting enough air for the virus concentration. Previous systems took in 2-8 liters per minute, but this sampler collects 1,000 liters. The team added an "artificial cyclone" to trap the virus. The swirling motion with liquid pushes viruses against the detector's surface for concentration.
The Washington University team tested their device in the apartments of two COVID-19 patients to see how well it worked in real-world situations.
The device detected tiny virus amounts from patients and showed no virus in an empty room. Linsey Marr of Virginia Tech confirms its effectiveness in detecting concerning virus levels. Marr's team is also developing a virus detector.
The new device is noisy, like a vacuum cleaner, and can be expensive to build. It could be useful in places like hospitals and airports, but might be too pricey for homes. Researchers are also considering adding features to detect other viruses, like the flu.