Engineers from Harvard, and MIT are designing a face mask that will light up, whenever it detects the coronavirus.

This mask is the product of bioengineers, who have been working on sensors that will detect viruses like Zika and Ebola, now it is getting retrofitted to work on the coronavirus. Technology has been in the development of six years.

Engineers are now working to adapt the technology to work smoothly with detecting COVID-19.

One of the goals of the engineering team is to embed sensors in the respirator, so when any breath, cough, sneeze, the sensor will be light up to warm of the contagion.

Initially, Jim Collins was interested in pandemics, even before the coronavirus became in vogue.

Developing the sensors was done in 2014, at a bioengineering laboratory at MIT creating a sensor that could detect the Ebola virus (freeze-dried) on paper. In 2016, they published the result but added Zika viruses to the system.

The device

The mask works with sensors that emits a fluorescent signal whenever a person will emit anything through the mouth. Successful application of the technology will improve screening techniques and methods that include temperature checks.

The applications are endless and it can help check who is infected or not.

As a diagnostic tool, it will give the doctor a way to check patients on the spot with no waiting time. One problem is the time it takes to test, with instant tools time it is cut to act faster.

If a fluorescent signal is lit up, it means a positive contact that is detected in the saliva.

With the project in early stages, he said results were promising with the sensor testing using a small saliva sample.

Also read: Should Everyone Wear Face Masks During COVID-19 Pandemic?

Several options for the design is glossed over, one is applying the sensor inside the mask or go for a module attached over an over the counter mask.

Developers hope to show the technology and concept that will be a working device in the next few weeks.

Collins added," Once we're in that stage, then it would be a matter setting up trials with individuals expected to be infected to see if it would work in a real-world setting."

As the researchers at MIT and Harvard try to perfect the tech, it might prove the best detector of the coronavirus.

The technology is already proven to work by 2018 as it detect SARS, measles, influenza, hepatitis C, West Nile, and other viruses.

Collins confirmed that it was an inexpensive paper-based diagnostic, but it was able to work on plastic, quartz, and using cloth as support.

Sensors were based on genetic DNA, and RNA which binds to viruses. Material is freeze-dried on fabric by a device called a lyophilizer that dries up the material, but not killing it. The material can survive for a long time, and the masks last long.

These sensors will be a cheaper detection method than longer traditional diagnostic tests. It only takes two to three hours to get the result, and the cost of the tech is cheaper than others to manufacture.

Once developed, the device offers less expensive option compared to other competitors, which is a great advantage.

This technology can be better than temperature checks at the airport, better to detect the virus itself according to Collins.

Related article: Face Mask Hacks: How to Extend the Life of a Mask With Proper Cleaning and Sanitation