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Professor’s sensor detects COVID-19 through breath, now being used in North Texas

Professor’s sensor detects COVID-19 through breath, now being used in North Texas

Professor’s sensor detects COVID-19 through breath, now being used in North Texas
August 05
08:00 2021

A sensor able to detect COVID-19 on a person’s breath, developed by a professor in the Department of Chemistry, is now being used in North Texas.

Guido Verbeck and his team from the university developed the chemical sensor last year. Verbeck then collaborated with intellectual property developer Worlds Inc. to turn the device into a rapid COVID-19 breathalyzer test. The sensor is now being used by Inspect IR, a company based in Frisco, Texas.

“The chemical sensor for the COVID application was developed initially to look for chemical variants in the air,” Verbeck told Dallas Innovates. “[…] These principles of air monitoring for unique chemical fingerprints then were directly applied to breath chemistry, and hence the use for disease detection.”

The sensor’s membrane inlet system is tuned to a specific class of chemical compounds that are released due to COVID-19. In 2020, the Royal Society of Chemistry published Verbeck’s peer-reviewed research on using such technology to detect the coronavirus. The sensor can also be used to detect other diseases, such as cancer and diabetes.

“The chemistry department supports this research by providing graduate students that Dr. Verbeck can recruit to work on this project, providing a lab and access to departmental instrumentation, and providing a reasonable teaching load so that Dr. Verbeck can devote a significant part of his time to research,” Department of Chemistry chair LeGrande Slaughter said.

Verbeck, who is the director of the Laboratory of Imaging Mass Spectrometry, has been able to work on his newest chemical sensor at the university’s chemistry labs. Slaughter said the Department of Chemistry has other professors interested in developing sensor technology.

“We do have other faculty interested in sensor research — in particular, Dr. Mohammad Omary, who has recently published a luminescent sensor for silver ions, which are found in some antimicrobial products and Dr. Francis D’Souza,” Slaughter said.

Although Verbeck’s sensor is being used in some areas of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, Denton County is still using the traditional methods of COVID-19 testing. As of Aug. 2, 872,778 COVID-19 tests have been performed in Denton County, according to the Department of State Health Services.

“There are three types of tests available for COVID-19: molecular, antigen, and antibody (serology) testing,” said Alex Reed, division manager of community health at Denton County Public Health. “Molecular and antigen tests detect whether a person is currently infected and serology detects whether a person had an infection in the past.”

People should get tested if they have symptoms of COVID-19 or have had close contact exposure with someone who has tested positive with COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC recommends people who are fully vaccinated get tested three to five days after the exposure and wear a mask indoors for 14 days or until they receive a negative test result. People who are not fully vaccinated should quarantine and be tested immediately. If the results are negative, they should be tested again in five to seven days after last exposure or immediately if COVID-19 symptoms develop during quarantine.

Featured Illustration by Miranda Thomas

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