According to foreign media New Atlas, it can take several days to get results when testing biological samples to see which viruses are present. However, a cheap new tool is said to catch and identify the virus in minutes. The handheld VIRRION device was developed by scientists at Pennsylvania State University and New York University and is only a few centimeters wide. In contrast, traditional virus identification equipment is large, expensive, and laboratory-based.
The prototype tool combines a “forest” of vertically aligned carbon nanotubes and adds gold nano particles to it. Scientists can adjust the diameter of these tubes during the manufacturing process to adjust the amount of space between them. As liquid biological samples pass through different versions of the device, doing so allows the nanotubes to “forest” to capture individual virus molecules of a particular size.
Once the viruses are captured, they are identified using a technique called Raman spectroscopy. In a nutshell, the process involves subjecting a sample to a laser to excite its molecules and then monitoring those vibration molecules to scatter light. Gold nano particles enhance Raman signals, which are analyzed by a machine learning algorithm that “trains” on signals from known viral molecules. Essentially, this means that VIRRION will simply match the received signal with the archived signal.
Scientists hope that after the technology is further developed, it can be used on-site in doctors’ offices and remote medical institutions, or used by farmers to check crops and livestock for diseases.
“We synthesized an aligned carbon nano tube ‘forest’ array gradient to capture different viruses based on their size and detect them on-site using Raman spectroscopy, assistant professor
Means. “We designed and assembled a portable platform to enrich virus particles from a few milliliters of clinical samples in minutes.”
A paper led by Professor Mauricio Terrones on the study was published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.