The Carlos III Health Institute subsidizes with half a million euros the research of a prototype that allows the rapid and non-contact analysis of surfaces contaminated by SARS-CoV-2, combining image acquisition systems in the entire optical and terahertz range ( submillimeter range) and its analysis with Artificial Intelligence.
The objective is the design of a prototype capable of detecting the SARS-CoV-2 virus deposited on surfaces of different materials through the use of existing optical technologies combined with Artificial Intelligence (AI).
This advance would make a great contribution to efforts to contain the pandemic and prevent new infections, since it would allow the precise detection of surfaces contaminated by the coronavirus.
The objective of the new project, given that there are currently no methods for detecting and visualizing the presence of the virus on surfaces, is to develop a portable prototype that would combine multispectral image reading systems, both in the optical range (from ultraviolet to infrared). thermal) as well as in the terahertz range, analysis methods using computational optics and Artificial Intelligence ( machine learning ).
This would allow rapid, non-contact analysis of contaminated areas by generating spatial distribution maps of these images in the field of view captured by the device. This would represent a great advance in terms of having methods that help to clean and decontaminate medical devices and facilities and to reduce contagion by contact.
The greatest difficulties of the project, which involves a great scientific and technological challenge, lie both in the scant information available about the virus – in terms of its physical characteristics, interaction mechanisms and deposition on surfaces, interaction with light. as in its size, barely 120 nanometers (a nanometer is one millionth of a millimeter).
To do this, they plan to explore practically the entire optical range, including the ultraviolet bands, the visible spectrum, the infrared and even the terahertz band, some of which are already being used successfully to determine the optical and electromagnetic properties of other types of viruses, even smaller than this SARS-CoV-2.
According to the scientists involved in this project, in just three months the first results could begin to be obtained, although the research is considering a horizon of about eight months. The group of researchers will openly publish the scientific results obtained in the course of the investigation, as well as the designs and devices that are developed, to enable their use and improvement by the international community.
Researchers from the Higher Technical School of Engineering of the University of Seville, the Virgen del Rocío University Hospital, the Seville Institute of Biomedicine, the Andalusian Network for the design and translation of Advanced Therapies, the TEDAX of the National Police, participate in the project. the Joint Research Center (JRC) of the European Commission and the Andalusian Technological Corporation (CTA) as well as the Calar Alto Astronomical Observatory.