A 3D printed Chip That Can Detect COVID-19 In 12 Seconds? Here’s How.

Updated: Aug 20

A picture of the 3D printed chip that is reported to have detected COVID-19 antibodies in seconds. Credit: Advanced Manufacturing and Materials Lab, College of Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University

A 3D printed chip was reported to be capable of detecting antibodies associated with COVID-19 within seconds.


Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) at Pennsylvania, USA, have found that an advanced nanomaterial-based biosensing platform can detect antibodies specific to COVID-19 in 10-12 seconds.


The proposed platform can also be used to detect the presence of other viruses such as Zika, HIV, and Ebola.


The resulting study, titled, “Sensing of COVID-19 Antibodies in Seconds via Aerosol Jet Nanoprinted Reduced-Graphene-Oxide-Coated 3D Electrodes,” was first published on 22 December 2020 which detailed how such a chip could be made and how it could detect COVID-19 related antibodies almost instantaneously.


According to CMU Professor Rahul Panat, they utilised a nanoparticle 3D printer to create a device that rapidly detects COVID-19 antibodies.


The testing platform identifies the presence of spike S1 protein and receptor binding domain (RBD) in a drop of blood of about five microliters. Concentration of antibodies can be extremely low but can still be noticed below 0.15 nanograms per millilitre or one picomolar.


The resulting detection happens through an electrochemical reaction inside a device which sends results to a smartphone interface almost instantly.


The test was found to have a low rate of error due to the highly selective nature of the binding reaction between the antibodies and antigens used in the device. Its efficiency and accuracy, meanwhile, were attributed to aerosol jet 3D printing due to its capability of printing cheap gold micropillar electrodes that are shaped thermally.


The printing, as well as the shape of the electrodes gives a bigger surface area to the micropillars and an improved electrochemical reaction where antibodies can stick to the antigens around the electrode.


Professor Panat hopes that the platform as well as the research that birthed it will help quantify patient immunological response to the new COVID-19 vaccines precisely.


Professor Panat worked with Shou-Jiang Gao, a leader of the cancer virology program at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre and a microbiology and molecular genetics professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.


Azahar Ali, a researcher in Professor Panat’s Advanced Manufacturing and Materials Lab, was named as the lead author of the study.


The study and its results were published in the journal, Advanced Materials. We have reached out to Professor Panat’s team for commets as of this article’s publication.

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