My research work on water microdroplets doped with fluorescent dyes used as microresonators for optics experiments - and my work in R&D in fluorescence microscopy.
What it does
The idea is to develop a quick screening device enabling to detect (and possibly quantify) SARS-CoV-2 viral load in the air exhaled from humans using an optical detection scheme.
Indeed, there are increasing concerns that aerosols (airborne micro or nanometric water droplets) suspended in air could be carried by air flows or stay suspended in air, and might be a significant route of infection.
The device would channel such airborne droplets exhaled by a suspected infected person into a detection area, where the droplets would be illuminated by a laser beam, and the light emitted from the droplets (possibly by fluorescence) would be collected by an optical device such as a microscope objective and detected by a photodetector (possibly a spectrometer, and/or an imaging sensor, and/or a fast sensitive photodetector).
Fluorescence could be provided by attaching fluorescent probes to the virus particles, taking advantage of the high affinity of SARS-CoV-2 for the human ACE2 receptor. ACE2 receptors could be synthesized or extracted, and tagged with a suitable fluorescent probe, and put in a water solution for nebulisation in order to produce "probe droplets".
These "probe droplets" could be fused in a controlled fashion with the "virus-loaded droplets" exhaled from the patient in a mixing chamber before being channelled to the detection area.
Ideally, a mechanism should be provided to discriminate between unbound "probe droplets" and "virus-loaded droplets with attached probes", either based on size filtering, or sophisticated fluorescence behavior in which fluorescence would significantly change upon binding of the tagged ACE2 receptors to the virus spikes.