Yale researchers create wearable COVID-19 detector that samples air

By Liese Klein

Jan 14, 2022

A team of Yale scientists and engineers has developed a wearable COVID-19 detector that samples the air for the virus and can alert users to an exposure, according to a scientific journal.

The report in this week’s issue of the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters describes a virus-detection device that uses passive samplers — small, lightweight and inexpensive detectors that can operate without electric power.

“Integration of passive samplers into wearable designs can be used to better understand personal exposure to the respiratory virus,” the researcher said in the article’s abstract.

The samplers were embedded in wearable clips and worn by 62 people across Connecticut in a test. The sampler was then tested using state-of-the-art PCR technology for signs of exposure to the virus, which can be transmitted in aerosols or droplets.

The device, named the Fresh Air Clip, was designed to detect the virus at levels well below what is considered an infectious dose.

After five days, PCR testing found the COVID-19 virus on five (8%) of the devices, four worn by restaurant servers and one by an employee at a homeless shelter. Two of the clips worn by restaurant servers had the highest viral loads, according to the report.

The passive sampler uses polydimethylsiloxane, a silicone-based polymer.

Researchers who took part in the study were affiliated with Yale’s School of Public Health and the departments of chemical and environmental engineering, environmental health sciences and mechanical engineering and materials science, along with the Yale School of Medicine’s departments of internal medicine, infection prevention and anesthesiology.