New sensor could tell patients if they have COVID or the flu within seconds

Researchers will present their findings to the American Chemical Society

The American Chemical Society (ACS), a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress, announced on March 28 that scientists have used a single-atom-thick nanomaterial to construct a device capable of detecting the viruses that cause COVID-19 and the flu much more quickly than conventional tests for either infection.

“When both of these viruses are circulating together as they did earlier this winter, it would be immensely useful to have a sensor that can simultaneously detect whether you have COVID, flu, none of the above or both,” Deji Akinwande, Ph.D., one of the scientists responsible for developing the sensor, said in a press release.

The sensor was constructed using graphene, a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice pattern.

“These ultra-thin nanomaterials generally hold the record for best sensitivity, even down to the detection of single atoms, and they can improve the ability to detect very small quantities of basically anything that needs to be sensed, whether it’s bacteria or viruses, in gas or in blood,” Akinwande explained.

The researchers believe the sensor may one day be useful for detecting other infections as well. According to Akinwande, the sensor returned test results within 10 seconds of adding a sample. Comparatively, conventional COVID-19 tests take minutes or even hours to provide results.

Through funding acquired from the National Science Foundation, the researchers are currently developing a sensor to test for COVID-19 variants, including omicron and delta, as well. The test could be adapted to include even more variants, the researchers told ACS.

The researchers presented their findings at the ACS Spring 2023 meeting, which hosted over 10,000 presentations from a wide range of scientific topics from March 26 through March 30.

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