"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

New air monitor can detect COVID virus in 5 minutes

July 10, 2023 – An air monitor developed by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis can detect COVID-19 in a room with an infected person inside 5 minutes.

The project was a collaboration between researchers from the university's engineering and medical faculties. Nature communication published the Results of her work within the Monday edition of the magazine.

One of the challenges the team had to beat was that detecting the virus in a room stuffed with air was “like looking for a needle in a haystack,” researcher and associate professor of engineering Dr. Rajan Chakrabarty said in a press release.

The team met this challenge using a technology called Wet Cyclone, which samples 500 cubic meters of air in 5 minutes. When the virus is detected, a lightweight on the device changes from green to red, which the researchers say means increased air circulation is required.

The device is just 25cm high and 30cm wide and is taken into account a proof of concept. The next step could be to include the technology right into a prototype to see how a business or household design might be achieved. The researchers see potential for the device to be utilized in hospitals and schools, in addition to for detecting other respiratory viruses corresponding to influenza and respiratory syncytial virus.

The methods currently used to detect viruses within the air take between 1 and 24 hours to gather and analyze samples. The existing methods typically require expert labor, leading to a process that doesn’t provide real-time information that would help reduce the danger or spread of the virus, the researchers write.

The team tested their device each in laboratory experiments, where they released aerosolized SARS-CoV-2 right into a room-sized chamber, and within the homes of two individuals who tested positive for COVID.

“Currently, there is nothing that tells us how safe a room is,” says Dr. John Cirrito, professor of neurology at Washington University, in a opinion“If you're in a room with 100 people, you don't want to wait five days to find out whether you might be sick or not. The idea behind this device is that you'll know in virtually real time, or every five minutes, whether there's a live virus in the air.”

Their goal is to develop a commercially available air quality monitor, the researchers said.