Much like a pregnancy test, the color-changing strip developed by nanoengineers at UC San Diego may be able to detect whether an individual has come into contact with COVID-19, or if they themselves are carrying the virus.
The strips may, in the future, be mounted on face masks to detect COVID-19 particles after 4 to 5 hours.
"In many ways, masks are the perfect 'wearable' sensor for our current world," said Jesse Jokerst, the professor of nanoengineering at UC San Diego who is leading the project. "We're taking what many people are already wearing and repurposing them, so we can quickly and easily identify new infections and protect vulnerable communities."
In order to detect the virus, the wearer would crack a blister pack to coat the test kit in a fluid that can indicate the presence of molecules produced by the coronavirus.
Although the strip turns blue or red depending on the outcome, Jokerst compared the device to a smoke detector.
"Think of this as a surveillance approach, similar to having a smoke detector in your house," he continued. "This would just sit in the background every day and if it gets triggered, then you know there's a problem and that’s when you would look into it with more sophisticated testing."