Auburn researchers develop instant-result COVID-19 test

The device enables faster detection of the virus in samples with lower viral loads.

Masoud Mahjouri-Samani, assistant professor in electrical and computer engineering at Auburn University’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, tests samples on microchips with graduate student Parvin Fathi-Hafshejani.

A research team being led by Auburn University has developed an electronic device that can detect the COVID-19 virus spike protein immediately. The device would allow those testing positive to seek medical treatment much sooner.

Masoud Mahjouri-Samani, assistant professor in electrical and computer engineering at the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, is the lead on the project, working with fellow Auburn co-authors Michael Hamilton, professor in electrical and computer engineering and director of the Alabama Micro/Nano Science and Technology Center, and Marcelo Kuroda, associate professor in physics. Also taking part in the project are graduate students Parvin Fathi-Hafshejani, Nurul Azam and Lu Wang. Sahar Hasim, assistant professor in biology at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, also is part of the project.

“When the virus spike protein interacts with the antibody within the testing device, it impacts the electronic properties of the atomically-thin monolayer 2D material. As soon as the lab technician puts the sample drop on the transistor surface, the device responds, and the result is evident,” said Mahjouri-Samani.

The study explains how the two-dimensional field-effect transistors are more expedient than 3D systems owing to their high surface-to-volume ratio.

The team fabricated the transistor biosensors using monolayer tungsten diselenide crystals for the detection of COVID-19 spike proteins.

- Sponsor -

“The device itself is a microchip,” says Hamilton. “That’s the beauty of it. The active channels of this device are smaller than the diameter of a human hair, and it can be shrunk even further. The sample to be tested will be larger than the device itself.”

Hamilton added that the device could also be used to detect other viruses and is extremely portable.

“In the middle of a pandemic, everybody is desperate and looking for some solutions,” Mahjouri-Samani said. “We put our minds together and asked, ‘What could we develop to solve a problem and more quickly provide peace of mind to people and improve quality of life in an affordable fashion?’”

Mahjouri-Samani hopes his team’s findings have the opportunity to make an impact, but recognizes that such a process would include a series of approvals and trials before distribution.

The latest Alabama business news delivered to your inbox