Singapore: Chinese researchers have developed a mask that can detect whether users have been exposed to Covid-19 or the flu, a development that has reduced the use of face coverings by vulnerable people and many countries are easing virus restrictions.

According to research led by six scientists at Tongji University in Shanghai, a sensor built into the mask was able to detect COVID-19, H5N1 and H1N1 influenza viruses in the air within 10 minutes and send notifications to the device. Peer-reviewed findings are published in scientific journals matter on Monday.

An artist's rendering of the proposed covid mask.

An artist’s rendering of the proposed covid mask.Credit:matter

The pandemic has led to the widespread use of masks and the proliferation of designs — including a version with a microphone — in most major economies, as the easing of Covid-related orders.

Still, mask use is still widespread in countries with strong Covid-19 policies, including China, while many people around the world continue to wear masks to protect themselves and others from the virus, regardless of government regulations.

An Axios-An Ipsos survey in early September found that 37 percent of Americans wear a mask outdoors at least sometimes, down from 89 percent two years ago.


The new device, which is powered by a rechargeable lithium battery outside the mask, was tested by spraying pathogens at home while pretending to be someone talking or coughing. Sensors respond to fluid 70 to 560 times less than the amount generated in a sneeze, sending alerts to wireless devices such as phones.

The researchers said the device is best used in confined spaces where the risk of infection is high, and is being developed to shorten the detection time and sensitivity for different viruses, if necessary. No cost estimates have been published on the exchange.


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