How a jellyfish may help find coronavirus particles in the air

ATLANTA — Would you believe a sensor using jellyfish proteins could potentially find airborne particles of COVID-19?

A company called Senseware is in the process of developing a sensor using those proteins which would light up if there are particles of the virus in the air inside a building.

Channel 2 Action News anchor Jorge Estevez spoke with Senseware’s CEO about how this type of sensor might work.

“So, we are introducing a new sensor that basically combines the luminescent proteins of jellyfish, and pathogen-specific antibodies. And so when it comes in contact with the source code to pathogen, it lights up, and we collect that light and can tell you if, if there’s a positive hit and COVID is in the air or not,” said Dr. Serene El-Momen, who has a doctorate in information technology.


El-Momen says the company started working on the sensor once they figured out the virus was easily transmitted indoors and could stay airborne much longer inside a building.

“We wanted to see how it’s transmitted in indoor spaces and what are the conditions and indoor spaces that will be ripe for it to stay there for longest and stay and become the options for people as they go into these indoor spaces,” said El-Momen.

She says the goal is to keep the indoor spaces as clean as possible. That meant trying to figure out ventilation and what effect it has on a room.

“You want to make sure that CO2 levels are low so that that means that you are diluting the air so you’re not inhaling that problem, possibly a virus and whatnot that is there. So you really need to look at that type of sensor and data to make sure that you’re using the infection,” said El-Momen.

El-Momen says particles and humidity levels are another thing to watch out for.

“Yes, so the particles. They are important to watch because that tells you how well your fifth generation is because you’re always having to circulate air, and you can potentially circulate particles that have the virus in it,” she added.

El-Momen says the goal is to have the sensor ready for commercial use, regardless of the cost because of the ability to potentially warn business owners and others they may have coronavirus in the air. It’s one safety measure in an environment where many are needed.

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