Inspiration

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.

How I built it

Challenges I ran into

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

What I learned

What's next for Optical detection of airborne virus-bearing aerosols

Built With

  • aerosols
  • arduino
  • fluorescence
  • laser
  • microscope-objective
  • optical-fibers
  • photodetector
  • pneumatics
  • raspberry-pi
  • spectrometer
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Updates

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Hello Breathalyzer Team, A few things to keep in mind to increase the chances for a successful project (from a regulatory perspective):

  1. Clearly define the area of application: wide area of application (e.g. aeroports, public spaces, schools, etc.) or more restricted area (private use in companies for example). This will have an impact on your need for scaleability.
  2. Scaleability: can the device easily be manufactured in large numbers?
  3. Manufacturing/production: What would be the bottlenecks for production? What is the time needed to produce a device (days, weeks, months,..)? Is there a need for special production areas (sterile, low bioburden,...)?
  4. Device design: Is it complex? Is it simple? How many components will the device have? Is the assembly easy? (for example: would it be possible to make the device in areas that have less complex production sites - such as developing countries)
  5. Is the device reusable or is it a disposal? (always aim for reusable if possible)
  6. Important: will the device be used quantitatively (provide a number?) Semi-quantitatively (e.g. reported number is above a certain threshold value)? Or qualitatively (yes/no, positive/negative answer)? This will drive the complexity of the validation/qualification of your device. For a qualitative test it will most likely be sufficient to validate the specifcity and the LOD. For a a quantitative test you are looking at a whole set of validation/qualification parameters (very complex).
  7. Will this be a broad-spectrum screening device? (meaning: other related viruses will also be detected, or does it have to be very specific to COVID-19)? If the idea is to identify people from the workforce that could also have flu or a cold (and send them home), then broad spectrum may be enough. if it is to be used in a setting where access is denied (e.g. boarding a plane), then the device should probably be very specific.
  8. Device complexity: keep in mind that the more complex the device, the more components will have to be go through a QC release. You may be able to get away with QC release of the final product, but typically each component has to meet certain quality specs/standards. I will look a bit more into the requirements for medical devices.
  9. Life expectancy and storage. Can all components be stored at room temperature or are special "cold chain" supply conditions needed? What would be the expiration of the detection components?
  10. Is detection fast? Is it easy? Does it require complex reactions? I will let you know if I think of some other points.

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