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Portable sensors for detecting COVID-19 and other viruses

Grab viruses out of the thin air

A proposed future society. Credit: Tohoku University

The future could accommodate portable and portable sensors for detecting viruses and bacteria in the surrounding environment. But we are not there yet. Researchers at Tohoku University have been studying materials that can change mechanically into electrical or magnetic energy and vice versa for decades. Together with colleagues, they published a review in the journal Advanced Materials on recent efforts to use these materials to make functional biosensors.

“Research into improving the performance of virus sensors has not evolved much in recent years,”

; said Tohoku University materials technician Fumio Narita. “Our review aims to help young researchers and graduate students understand the latest advances to guide their future work to improve virus sensor sensitivity.”

Piezoelectric materials mechanically convert to electrical energy. Antibodies that interact with a particular virus can be placed on an electrode incorporated into a piezoelectric material. When the target virus interacts with the antibodies, it causes an increase in mass that decreases the frequency of the electric current moving through the material and signals its presence. This type of sensor is being tested for the detection of several viruses, including cervical carcinogenic human papillomavirus, HIV, influenza A, Ebola and hepatitis B.

Magnetostrictive materials mechanically convert to magnetic energy and vice versa. These have been studied to detect bacterial infections, such as typhoid and swine fever, and for detection Bacillus anthracis. Although rare, people can get anthrax if they come in contact with infected animals or contaminated animal products. Symptoms begin between one day and two months after the infection is contracted. “Class =” glossaryLink “> anthrax spores. Probe antibodies are fixed on a biosensor chip placed on the magnetostrictive material, and then a magnetic field is applied. If the targeted antigen interacts with the antibodies, it adds mass to the material, leading to a magnetic flux change that can be detected using a sensing ‘pick-up coil’.

Narita says that developments in artificial intelligence and simulation studies can help find even more sensitive piezoelectric and magnetostrictive materials for the detection of viruses and other pathogens. Future materials can be coilless, wireless and soft, making it possible to incorporate them into fabrics and buildings.

Researchers are even investigating how to use these and similar materials to detect SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in the air. This type of sensor can e.g. Incorporated into underground ventilation systems to monitor real-time virus spread. Portable sensors can also lead people away from a virus-containing environment.

Researchers still need to develop more efficient and reliable sensors for detecting viruses with higher susceptibility and accuracy, smaller size and weight and better affordability before they can be used in home applications or smart clothes, ”says Narita. “This type of virus sensor is becoming a reality with further developments in materials science and technological advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning and data analysis.”

Reference: “A Review of Piezoelectric and Magnetostrictive Biosensor Materials for the Detection of COVID – 19 and Other Viruses” by Fumio Narita, Zhenjin Wang, Hiroki Kurita, Zhen Li, Yu Shi, Yu Jia, and Constantinos Soutis, November 24, 2020, Advanced materials.
DOI: 10.1002 / adma.202005448

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