Research teams worldwide are working on innovations to tackle the global Coronavirus pandemic. Graphene is playing a vital role in many of these projects, due to its potential role as an effective anti-viral agent.
Now, electronics grade graphene producer Grolltex Inc. has teamed up with the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute to create a new testing platform that uses graphene to rapidly detect the presence of the COVID-19 virus. The team has developed a handheld reader that incorporates disposable plastic testing chips that are intended for widespread use across hospitals as well as “point of care” locations to help prevent the spread of the infection.
Using Graphene to Detect COVID-19
Grolltex was founded in 2017 and is already the largest commercial producer of electronics grade graphene. When the co-founder of the company, Jeff Draa, saw the literature surrounding COVID-19 virus detection, he instantly knew that his team had to work on the project given their expertise in working with graphene.
The team was inspired by recent research that is emerging, demonstrating the efficacy of using graphene in applications that identify bacteria. This month, a research team at Boston College reported how they used a sheet of graphene to develop a method of identifying strains of bacteria. In addition, graphene sensors have previously been used in the detection of the Zika virus, amongst other deadly viruses.
Recently published research papers have also highlighted the use of graphene in developing sensors that can reliably detect the COVID-19 virus.
To develop a graphene-based sensor platform in a relatively short time, Grolltex joined forces with Sanford Burnham, who helped them with the science and testing required to perfect the platform. The “graphene sensor chip on plastic” platform requires just a small biological sample from the patient to detect the presence of the virus. The innovation can be used to simultaneously run up to 12 tests, providing healthcare professionals with a reliable and fast COVID-19 testing platform.
The use of the test will help to distinguish which of those who have symptoms of the virus have actually been infected with COVID-19 and present a risk of spreading it to others, particularly to those in at-risk groups.
Governments are attempting to develop exit plans that will allow them to ease up the restrictions that have been put in place to stop the spread of the virus, such as working from home, social distancing, the closure of non-essential retail stores, and restricting travel. With testing, the government will be able to be more confident in relaxing these rules, given that those who have symptoms will be able to confirm their COVID-19 status and self-quarantine if needed.
Low-cost COVID-19 Test Manufacture
As Grolltex already has access to an industrial-scale graphene manufacturing platform, it can produce the sensing chips at very low-costs, with each chip being produced for mere pennies. The company can produce around 10,000 sensing chips per square foot sheet of graphene, processing 100 sheets at a time. Therefore, the company has the capacity to produce large quantities of the chips at low-costs, in short periods.
The company creates the sensors that are made from a single graphene atom-thick layer of material, known as monolayer graphene. The company has also developed specific proprietary and patented nanotechnology made of gold nano-islands that are placed on top of the graphene to give it its sensing capabilities.
Before large-scale production of the sensing platform can begin, Grolltex explains that they first need funding and are at the stage of looking for a local financial partner to help them scale-up production.