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Effective detection of all types of viruses

​CEA-Leti, a CEA Tech institute, recently combined its MEMS and silicon photonics capabilities to develop a novel device capable of detecting particles within a size range that had been difficult to identify prior to this innovation. The research was conducted in partnership with CEA-IRIG.

Published on 13 October 2020

​The optomechanical resonator recently developed by CEA-Leti is faster, more versatile, and more sensitive than any other detection device currently on the market—detecting particles that have been difficult to identify until now in record time.

The researchers utilized a CEA-Leti MEMS nanoresonator to build a mass spectrometry system. The nanoresonator’s silicon nanobeam is similar to a guitar string that vibrates when plucked and emits a different sound when pressure is applied with a fingertip. In this example, the fingertip is a tiny particle. The changes in resonant frequency can be used to determine the mass—and therefore the nature—of the particle captured on the device’s surface. And the larger the surface used to capture particles, the faster the analysis. Here, the researchers replaced the tiny nanobeam with a plate whose surface not only captures any particles present in a sample more rapidly than the nanobeam, but that also detects any non-spherical particles (like the Ebola virus and rabies, for instance). Furthermore, light, rather than an electrical signal, is used to measure the device’s resonant frequency, delivering between 1,000 and 10,000 times greater sensitivity in the process. Overall, the improvement in analysis speed is around one order of magnitude for the detection of 100-megadalton particles, similar to the mass of the SARS-CoV2 strain of coronavirus. This high level of sensitivity could position the device to detect very low airborne concentrations of viruses in hospitals, office buildings, airplanes, and other public places.

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