Face mask can detect airborne Covid in just 10 minutes

A mask that can detect coronavirus in just 10 minutes has been developed by scientists.

The highly sensitive face covering can detect the novel bug in the air and alert the wearer via an app on their phone. It can also pick up swine flu and bird flu.

Those diseases spread through droplets in the air released by infected people when they talk, cough or sneeze.

The tiny, invisible molecules can remain suspended in the air for a long time and people catch the illnesses by breathing in a big cluster of the molecules.

Researchers in China tested the mask in an enclosed chamber by spraying liquid containing virus proteins on to the face covering. The sensor responded to just 0.3 microlitres of the liquid.

That is between 70 and 560 times less than the amount of liquid produced by one sneeze and even less than the amount created by coughing or talking.

The sensor contains aptamers, a type of synthetic molecule that can identify proteins in pathogens. The research model was tested with aptamers that can recognise Covid, swine flu and bird flu.

Once the aptamers bound to the virus proteins in the air, an ion-gated transistor alerted wearers to the pathogens via their phones.

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