The novel sensor is based on a special structure of tiny gold electrodes that are 3D printed using the company's Aerosol Jet process. The technology, says the company, would allow clinicians to instantly and accurately detect the COVID-19 antibodies due to the specific geometry and surface characteristics of the printed structure.
Rahul Panat, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University says, "My research team was working on 3D printed high-performance sensors to detect dopamine, a chemical in the brain, when we realized that we could adapt our work for COVID-19 testing. We shifted our research to apply our expertise to combating this devastating pandemic. The Aerosol Jet process was critical to producing a sensor with high sensitivity and speed."
Aerosol Jet is a production process, developed by Optomec, capable of printing extremely precise conductive and non-conductive materials with features as fine as 10 microns. It is used in advanced semiconductor packaging, 3D antenna and sensor production, medical device manufacturing, aerospace, and other industries.
For the CMU COVID-19 sensor, ink droplets containing nanoparticles were precisely placed to build a matrix of 100 gold pillars in 2 mm square at high speed. The pillars were then coated with reduced graphene oxide, which binds the antibodies to the gold electrodes. The device has a potential to detect other viruses such as Zika, Ebola and HIV, say the researchers.
The low-cost sensor is just entering trials with COVID patients, says the company, and could prove to be a key tool in understanding the path and concentration of the pandemic and could be a critical enabler in opening up certain parts of the economy.