Problem to be solved
Reliable and quick detection of the virus.
Our work in SERS and depositing nanoparticles on air filters.
What is our solution
Our product will exploit devices already on the market (including handhelds) for the detection of the SARS-CoV-2. These "Raman measurement" devices are regularly used for the detection of various substances, drugs etc. in locations such as airports. Surface Enhanced Raman Scattering (SERS) is a related technique that can detect quantities many order of magnitude smaller than the Raman technique, but is limited by the need of sophisticated substrates (where "plasmonic" effects take place). SERS can regularly get signal of specific biomolecules, RNA, proteins etc and in the last view years its use and market share has seen a significant increase. The need to diagnose disease at the earliest stages is driving the growth of the market which was $1.5 billion in 2018 at a compound annual growth rate of 8.9% . Our idea is to develop the right substrates (disposable airfilters) for the detection of the virus presence with a high repeatability and is based on our previous work. On these airfilters we will collect droplets captured from a person's breath or coughing. They will be our focus of development and our product (together with the protocol of their use). Our solution is scalable by definition, as it needs no development of equipment, only of materials; it has therefore the potential to be of low cost, extremely fast and be performed everywhere. As it exploits an optical technique, it can offer increased reliability without risks and without any special training for its operator.
How we will built it
We will exploit our experience in the fabrication of nanoparticle-loaded airfilters and their nanoscale characterization. We will exploit fully the relevant labs of our research center (National Centre for Scientific Research Demokritos in Athens, Greece) and our university facilities (Montanuniversität Leoben in Austria) and a range of available labs and solutions of our collaborators, including virologists, for this virus.
A) Find a (unique) fingerprint of the virus. That will be the signal of the relevant proteins etc that is not related to healthy people. For this reason, in our team we have the group of Machine Learning (SKEL) of our research center; we are already in collaboration with them in a project for the fabrication of smart noses for the early detection of fungi in food storage (silos). For the effort to find the virus signature see also the complementary proposal by the Samsung group (https://devpost.com/software/samsung-research-for-sars-cov-2-detection-with-spectroscopy). B) Perform a large number of tests with the virus (in controlled environment) and in a massive scale with in the real world.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
Already prepared airfilters with nanoparticles with the right properties (plasmonic effects). It has been a solution waiting for a problem to be solved, as it is always the case for most advanced materials.
- Immediate: Reduce the risks for workers in hospitals and other services necessary to combat the virus.
- Medium term: To re-open, without significant health risks, indoor venues, including airports, markets etc.
After the crisis
- There is a huge potential for exploitation in other health topics (early cancer detection etc) as well as environmental monitoring.
- Our system could be a permanent accessory to ventilation systems.
As far as we know there are not any commercial airfilter substrates for SERS measurements available so far. Several research groups around the world have used similar substrates (with nanoparticles extending in 3 dimensions), elaborating a plethora of techniques and materials, targeting the detection of specific molecules.
What we learned
Science is the solution.
What's next for SERS4SARS
Try it! That is:
- Implement our collaboration plan with biologists, virologists etc.
- Development of substrates and optimisation (test various fibers, nanoparticles, processes etc).
- Data acquisition in a large scale for various patients/viruses.
- Standardisation of measurement procedure and substrate fabrication (for large scale production and various instruments).
- Preparation for entering the Market: Mass production, collaboration with SERS system manufacturers, building client trust.
We are (PhD) researchers with significant experience in a wide range of relevant topics ranging from nanomaterial growth and characterization, Raman spectroscopy, crystallography of biomolecules (often with the use of large scale facilities such as synchrotrons, neutron facilities etc), artificial intelligence, aerosol science. We have already received significant input from Biologists, Biotechnologists, Microbiologists that has already been included in our proposal. We are all strongly committed into taking research to the real world and this is the best opportunity that we will ever get.
K. Giannakopoulos has about 25 years of experience in the fabrication and characterization of advanced materials for a range of applications, including photonics, sensors, microelectronics. His work includes aerosol nanoparticles.
G. Manolis is an expert of the Raman technique with work in a large number of materials.
E. Moshopoulou is an expert in the structural studies of the nanoparticle-biomolecule interaction performing Crystallography at Large Scale Facilities (Synchrotrons, XFELs, Neutrons) in Europe and the USA (ESRF, Diamond, ISIS, ILL, SSRL, Los Alamos, Brookhaven, Argonne, National Labs, etc).
C. Mitterer has more than 35 years of experience in the design, synthesis and characterization of functional thin films, e.g. for application in tribology, microelectronics, displays and for energy applications.
N. Kostoglou is an expert in the development, modification and characterisation of nanoporous materials, substrates and nanoparticles for energy and environmental applications.
I. Karakasiliotis is an expert in the molecular and cell biology of virus-host interactions and has a a long-standing interest in RNA biology.
G. Giannakopoulos is an expert in Artificial Intelligence exploiting various techniques (Deep Learning etc) for the analysis of complex signals from sensors
K. Eleftheriadis has significant experience in generation, processing and characterisation of aerosols and metrology of aerosol microphysical and chemical properties; applications include atmospheric and climate research as well as nanoparticle characterisation