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Tackling one of the world’s biggest health challenges

Professor Michael Breadmore and Mostafa Adel Atia Abuzeid

An exciting new research project is underway that could pave the way for the development of a world-first device that detects coronavirus on surfaces, in airports, hospitals or schools.

Researchers from the University of Tasmania, in partnership with GreyScan Pty Ltd, are using the science of trace detection to develop the tool.

The project aims to provide proof-of-concept for the world’s first mobile virus detection device, GreyScan’s TVD-1, through laboratory research that will develop the chemistry needed to identify SARS-CoV-2 in the field.

Studies have found that SARS-CoV-2 remains viable on surfaces for many days.

Currently there are no means to check how effective cleaning protocols are or to know whether the virus is present or not.

Alumnus and ACROSS Director Professor Michael Breadmore (BSc Hons 1997, PhD 2001) said the project expanded on the trace explosives detection technology invented by his team and commercialised, manufactured and deployed by GreyScan.

“Fifteen years ago, we were asked to rapidly detect explosives and reduce a 30-minute process to 30 seconds to help make Australia and the world safer, which we were able to do with GreyScan,” Professor Breadmore said.

“We will use what we learnt about how to do chemistry exceptionally quickly and apply this to virus detection. Our research will develop a way to collect, analyse and detect viruses from surfaces within a few minutes.

“It is not possible to implement existing diagnostic approaches in a time that is suitable for rapid screening. Our approach is truly unique in the world and in the diagnostic space.”

GreyScan Pty Ltd Chief Executive Officer Samantha Ollerton said the research represented the first step towards developing the TVD-1, which could be used to detect the virus in airports, public transportation systems and places of mass gatherings, as well as being deployed in the testing of people.​​​​​​​

The device would help the public to feel safe again and be able to return to their normal routines by demonstrating that cleaning or decontamination protocols have been followed.

It comes as University alumni, students and staff are constructing and assembling thousands of protective face shields for frontline medical workers.

Face shields

Using laser-cutting machines and 3D printers, the team are supplying Primary Health Tasmania and hospital staff.

The project has involved staff and students from the University College, Engineering, the Australian Maritime College (AMC), Architecture and Design, Health and Medicine and Creative Arts and Media.

Published on: 10 Jun 2020 2:12pm