Preventing Coronavirus Transmission with Several New Engineering Solutions
In this article, those who follow the news regarding successful engineering projects against coronavirus will get informed about several quite innovative approaches in this field. In particular, they will get to know the following:
· Devices to make employees feel safe at the office;
· Development of coronavirus-killing face masks that get activated when using weak electric fields;
· Identifying coronavirus with the help of the app that analyzes a person’s speech.
So, if you want to stay in the know concerning the innovations the world engineering teams suggest mankind to battle with coronavirus, this article will provide you with the thing.
Device to Trap Aerosolized Coronavirus Particles
While businesses are making efforts to develop ways to make white collars feel safe about working at enclosed spaces during the coronavirus pandemic, several enterprises have suggested a solution. Meet coronavirus air monitoring equipment!
What is the procedure? Such a device “inhales” a large amount of air and catches aerosolized Covid-19 particles. Then, the contents are analyzed for coronavirus presence.
Let’s look at devices produced by PathogenDx and several others that quickly designed the sort of tech. The engineering solutions are already available on the market. All the companies accentuate that the devices may be easily implemented almost everywhere: business centers, hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and even airplanes.
In 2020, PathogenDx designed the coronavirus detection system. The engineers combined its DNA analyzing power with an air sampler produced by Bertin Instruments. Visually, the device resembles a gooseneck. It functions with a cyclonic vortex that breathes in air and traps particles inside it. Once they get the sample, it will be delivered to a PathogenDx lab. In the lab, specialists conduct a PCR procedure to detect coronavirus’s genetic code that consists of two steps.
However, there rises a difficulty here. The point is the device doesn’t bring results in real-time. Note that it doesn’t work like a siren that becomes active to alert someone nearby that coronavirus is there. In fact, all the collected samples are delivered to the lab for deep testing. The procedure requires a few hours (if they add logistics, it may take even a day or so). Still, there is a value in the solution!
According to Milan Patel (CEO of PathogenDx), the solution doesn’t cope with everything regarding coronavirus. However, it does give businesses a chance to identify Covid-19 presence without just relying on the thing that people at office self-report. Anyway, it is kind of soothing when you enter a business center or a hospital, you know that they have implemented environmental monitoring, agree?
Patel comments that the device is especially useful in large business centers, on airplanes, and in health care facilities. For instance, on an airplane, if the device identifies coronavirus presence during a flight, the cabin crew may inform passengers on board that they were potentially infected. Another option sounds like “around two hundred sixty-seven passengers haven’t got infected.”
In business centers, once coronavirus was detected by the device, office managers of companies may recommend employees to work remotely for a few weeks or so. Hospitals may implement the device to analyze coronavirus trends, find trouble spots, and inform staff as well as patients of potential infecting.
Other companies have also developed several options regarding air monitoring solutions. Sartorius in Gottingen, Germany informs that its air monitoring equipment is currently being used in several hospitals in China. When talking about the results, the coronavirus concentration is the lowest in ventilated patient rooms but it was the highest in the toilet used by the patients.
In the US, Assured Bio Labs (Tennessee) sees the goal of their air monitoring devices in supporting employees to get back to business. InnovaPrep in Missouri suggests an air sampling kit called the Bobcat that can analyze air samples.
Again, none of the devices guarantees real-time results. That is the challenge the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology is trying to manage. In partnership with Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, they have come up with a plasmonic photothermal biosensor that may spot coronavirus presence without PCR required. Currently, all the engineers need is just some more improvements, so that the device could demonstrate results within thirty minutes.
What is the construction of the device? It combines an optical sensor and a photothermal constituent that use the plasmonic photothermal effect together with localized surface plasmon resonance sensing transduction. However, before the device officially comes to the market, the engineers are to find a way how to isolate the coronavirus’s genetic material from its membrane on-board the device. They hope to resolve the case soon as they already possess a prototype to test by the end of 2020.
If the above-mentioned inspired you to design a project against coronavirus or you already have the idea but don’t know how to bring it to life, visit Engre . This marketplace provides businesses with specialists in any field that can develop the most complicated solutions!
Killing Coronavirus with “Electric” Face Masks
In the medical field, they use electric-field generating fabric to treat wounds. However, recently the scientists found out that such fabric can destabilize Covid-19 particles. As a result, they can’t infect cells anymore! Let’s get acquainted with the “electric” face mask and several other electric types of equipment.
While governments worldwide insist on using traditional face masks as they limit coronavirus spread, engineers at Indiana University went further. The engineering team has demonstrated for the first time that a weak electric field copes with coronavirus.
Let’s look at how and where else a weak electric field may be used to fight against such viruses as Covid-19.
According to a ChemRxiv preprint , the electroceutical fabric is a perfect material to produce face masks and other PPE (personal protective equipment). They have already conducted testing of the fabric against such infections as a human virus that causes the flu and a pig respiratory coronavirus. In 2020, they have started testing against the virus that leads to Covid-19. According to Mahmoud Al Ahmad (professor of engineering at the University of Arab Emirates), the concept of an “electric” face mask requires more research before being officially implemented in PPE. However, the team has conducted an excellent work in this direction. The research is of true interest to the scientific world.
Director of the Indiana Center for Regenerative Medicine and Engineering, Chandan Sen states that except face masks, weak electrical fields may be used in the following ways:
· Disinfecting air in hospitals (in particular, operating room surfaces);
· Providing cleaning services for private homes (when people order service to purify air at homes).
Chandan Sen also believes that coronavirus is not the last virus that will interfere with our lives in the future. So, their target is to go deeper into the subject and find out broader approaches to use a weak electric field to battle with coronavirus and similar infectious diseases.
The laboratory managed by Sen in collaboration with the company called Vomaris (Arizona) has been designing the electroceutical fabric technology during the last six (!) years.
The technology contains a matrix sample made of silver and zinc dots. The last is printed onto cotton or polyester. A battery that produces a weak electric field is formed by those dots. When getting influenced by a conductive medium (sweat or gel), electrons redeploy from the zinc to the silver in a REDOX reaction. A potential difference of 0.5 volts is generated here.
The technology is FDA-cleared. What does it mean? As a rule, medical devices are usually "cleared" by the FDA. This means the manufacturer guarantees that its solution is substantially equivalent to similar legally marketed equipment that already possesses FDA approval.
Chandan Sen adds that for moisture to be implemented in face masks, they should use hydrogel. The last activates the dots on the mask’s periphery. Once the air is exhaled, moisture will guarantee that the fabric is wetted.
Due to the partnership with the geneticist Kenneth Cornetta, the engineering team managed to expose a pig respiratory coronavirus to the electroceutical fabric for around four minutes. In one minute, they successfully got the confirmation that coronavirus parts had started to joint. The parts became bigger than before exposure. So, the weak electric field added to “destroying structural alterations to the virions.
The next step was the engineering team tested the coronavirus parts on the fabric against cells in a dish. The virus “disappeared!”
What is the key info here? Sen’s hypothesis that the electrostatic breaks the coronavirus parts and forces between the fabric and the parts is true. The team has already submitted the data to the FDA. They are sure they will get Emergency Use Authorization to implement the fabric in face masks. Moreover, they hope that the technology may be used in the N95 masks manufacturing.
About the App to Spot Coronavirus via Testing a Person’s Speech
All of us know that a key challenge about Covid-19 is that a person demonstrates no symptoms until several days after they get infected. During that period, an individual may spread coronavirus.
As far as currently, mankind doesn’t have a vaccine to cure the virus, early disclosure of symptoms is crucial to minimize the transmission.
Based on the ongoing investigations, Mohammed Usman, Mohammed Zubair, and Mohd Wajid (IEEE senior members at King Khalid University in Abha, Saudi Arabia) are sure that early Covid-19 symptoms can be uncovered from human speech. This is possible due to practicing artificial intelligence algorithms and signal processing techniques.
According to Mohammed Usman, speech possesses inherent data regarding the physiological, physical, and psychological condition of a speaker. They may easily reflect any variation in all those statuses in the speech. For instance, it is not a hard task to reveal that an individual feels happy, tired, or sick when they listen to how a person speaks.
The scientists explain that infected individuals undergo specific modifications to body parameters such as blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, and breathing rate. All those indicators influence the speech physiology and are usually noticed in speech signals.
So, when applying AI and signal processing, variations in speech features may be detected and diagnosed. The engineering specialists are designing an app that may evaluate a person’s speech to spot COVID-19 symptoms. Depending on the results, the person may be tested, quarantined, and provided with medical treatment much earlier.
The app has the AI model included so that the users may systematically monitor themselves for COVID-19 symptoms. However, the users should understand that the proposed diagnostic solution is only aimed at the initial screening and identifying suspected COVID-19 infected. The goal of the app is to enhance existing clinical diagnostic procedures, not substitute them.
To analyze and optimize AI models, the engineering professionals are going to implement a dataset that consists of speech recordings as well as body parameter indicators gathered from massive testing of hundreds of people. The dataset will contain samples from both asymptomatic and healthy people, as well as the infected.
Currently, the scientists are cooperating with several medical centers and hospitals in Saudi Arabia and India. They want to gather data, on conditions that they follow data-protection requirements. The team has already begun collecting data for healthy patients. They believe that that by July 2020 the team will get all formalities managed to gather data from both symptomatic as well as confirmed COVID-19 individuals. Once the data-protection approvals completed, they will momentarily start the data collection process.
Talking about data collection, two types of speech recordings will be taken:
· a complete sentence;
· a combination of vowel sounds lasting for a few seconds, such as “aaa” or “eee”, to cover the finer items of the human voice box.
To train the AI algorithms, the recordings, as well as body features analyzed at the same time using conventional biomedical devices, will be implemented. Such data as personal details and identity of the volunteers who participate in testing will be kept confidential. The only available info will be their gender and age.
As variations are natural regarding genders and age groups, this data is must-have to see those differences and put them into the AI algorithms.
When implementing such signal processing techniques as voice activity detection and filtering, the speech signal (recorded in digital format) will be previously analyzed to get rid of background noise and unwanted features. Then, the speech signal will be optimized with the help of parameter extraction algorithms to get traits that characterize the speech signal.
Why do they require many samples from people in each category (healthy, symptomatic, and the infected)? The reason is individual variations within each category may be averaged out to receive a more precise AI model. The confirmation will be delivered by comparing the diagnosis of the AI model with the clinical diagnosis.
While working on the app, challenges the scientists face are as follows:
· Data collection. When it comes to receiving access to the infected or even symptomatic patients, taking their data is complicated because it requires several procedures related to approvals and precautions;
· Not everyone desires to share their samples;
· The app should guarantee that false positives are reduced to a minimum. Too many false alarms may lead to distress and panic in people. Additionally, it can also cause chaotic scenarios. For example, people may run to their nearest healthcare centers and overcrowd them. For sure, false negatives have to be reduced as well. A too large amount of false negatives designate that the app doesn’t notice COVID-19 symptoms. The target is to use an app that sees COVID-19 symptoms highly accurate while reducing false positives to a minimum.
Is it Possible to Get Testing Results Extremely Fast?
The medical staff probably dreams about the following testing system. You simply touch your nose and put a small sample of the fluid on a semiconductor chip. Then, you insert the chip into a pocket reader and, within sixty seconds, its tiny screen demonstrates the results (negative for Covid-19 or positive for antibodies). The probability of incorrect results is one percent.
This sort of on-the-spot testing is just a fantasy right now. However, technology is on our side. Jessica Gomez (CEO of Rogue Valley Microdevices) knows how to bring the dream to reality in the nearest future.
Gomez states that the idea may come from biosensor chips. Rogue Valley Microdevices is a wafer enterprise that deals with producing sensors and microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). The enterprise is working in cooperation with several startups. Their goal is to develop biosensors for Covid-19 testing .
Both startups (Hememics and Cardea Bio) explain that biosensor chips they are designing possess similar features as well as several differences. Let’s consider that in more detail.
Biosensors for viral ribonucleic acid, antigen, or antibody spotting are based on semiconductor pattern covered in biological material. That will bind with the biological material of concern in a sample fluid. When that happens, the flow of electrons through the circuit undergoes modifications.
Regarding the structure, they resemble silicon metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistors with a gate between them. However, in the biosensors, the gate is “supervised” by the biomolecules instead of a bioFET.
Biosensors do not need any material to be multiplied to generate a signal. Moreover, it is not required that the biological sample moves through numerous laboratory processing stages.
The above-mentioned guarantees testing may be truly fast (it will take maximum one minute). As far as a chip possesses multiple circuits, tests of various types may take place on the same chip simultaneously. The only remark is that various biological substances function as detectors for multiple circuits.
Such a scheme makes the system look for a wide range of RNA items, antigens, and antibodies at once. The approach has obvious pluses. It minimizes incorrect results and delivers additional data regarding an individual’s health (via testing for the flu and Covid-19 simultaneously).
The biosensors designed by Hememics and Cardea emanate from carbon nanotubes and graphene that in both cases are implemented as semiconductors. Dissimilar to silicon, carbon nanotubes and graphene do not decompose when they establish contact with a biological fluid. A great thing is that they have a speed advantage. The system works even in a situation where the signal modifications that take place are small.
The enterprise has already started producing sensor chips for Cardea as well as Hememics. Jessica Gomez comments that it is critical to prepare the surface chemistry of the devices. The engineers of the company are doing their best to organize a manufacturing process that does the above-mentioned. They also plan to find ways to transfer the process to other manufacturers to support production.
They want to insert the biosensor module into a handheld construction (the size of a smartphone), which allows the use in the field as well as traditional care environments. Moreover, the technology will link the test results with cloud-based data management networks. This is a perfect thing for pre-travel screening at airports.
According to Gomez, there has to be a very reliable supply chain to guarantee health care providers possess an appropriate supply of the tools. The potential biosensors will make coronavirus testing the fastest procedure ever.
All the above-mentioned facts witness that the COVID-19 pandemic has developed unprecedented challenges for the modern medicine never seen before. In the engineering field, reputable manufacturers as well as startups are intensively working to provide mankind with the most innovative medical devices and software solutions used to cope with the disease.
The producing of medical equipment including respirators, ventilators, imaging systems, test equipment, and more has seen companies, startups, and volunteers from many industries finding creative ways to construct these devices to overcome the pandemic.