Optomec’s metal 3D printing technology has been used to develop a COVID-19 antibody test that can return results within seconds.
Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) has been using the Optomec Aerosol Jet process for more than two years and has recently deployed it to develop a low-cost sensor based on a ‘special structure’ of 3D printed gold electrodes. Due to the specific geometry and surface characteristics of the printed structure, Carnegie Mellon researchers claim the process could allow clinicians to detect COVID-19 antibodies in as little as ten seconds.
The printed sensor, which is now entering trials with COVID-19 patients, is capable of detecting antibodies at very low concentrations through an electromechanical reaction sensed by the 3D printed structure within a handheld device that interfaces with a smartphone. CMU’s Mechanical Engineering department had previously been using Optomec’s 3D printing equipment to develop sensor technology for other medical purposes. The Aerosol Jet technology is capable of producing precise components as fine as 10 microns and through the CMU’s COVID-19 testing efforts has enabled a matrix of 100 gold pillars in 2mm square, which is then coated with reduce graphene oxide to bind the antibodies to the gold electrodes.
“My research team was working on 3D printed high-performance sensors to detect dopamine, a chemical in the brain, when we realised that we could adapt our work for COVID-19 testing. We shifted our research to apply our expertise to combatting this devastating pandemic,” commented Rahul Panat, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. “The Aerosol Jet process was critical to producing a sensor with high sensitivity and speed.”
CMU is carrying out further research to assess the use of this platform to detect the active COVID-19 virus, while there is also a belief that it could be used to detect other viruses, such as Zika, Ebola and HIV.