University of Arkansas researchers have received a $699,604 federal grant to improve a Wi-Fi nano-biosensor that will be used in a palm-sized, low-cost and wireless COVID-19 detection system.
The detection system is anticipated to be the first of its kind, delivering more accurate positive and negative results in real time, the university said in a news release. The system will also help confirm whether coronavirus variants are alive or dead, and therefore whether the variants are infectious.
The award to associate professor Ryan Tian and his team is a portion of $3.77 million in National Institute of Standards and Technology grants to upscale the production of graphene, a super-material derived from carbon, for use in respirators and nano-biosensors. Other entities receiving funds are graphene manufacturer Avadain LLC of Memphis, the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, and remote monitoring company Flextrapower Inc. of New York.
High-quality graphene is expected to improve the nano-biosensor’s accuracy, sensitivity, reliability and detection speed, according to the release. That could vault the biosensor ahead of other types of COVID-testing tools currently on the market, such as PCR machines.
Tian’s team was also awarded $50,000 from the National Science Foundation to explore commercialization opportunities for the biosensor. Tian said it could be used to detect foodborne, waterborne, and airborne bacteria as well as viruses, T- and B-cells, stem cells, and cancerous cells. The biosensor is also expected to have broad applications for the food industry, health care and border security.