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New invention from UBC Okanagan detects airborne viruses, like COVID

Researchers from UBCO, Michigan State University, create new system to hopefully prevent pandemics

Researchers from the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus have invented a system that can detect and identify airborne viruses.

The project was a collaboration between UBC and Michigan State University and culminated in a publication in the journal ACS Nano.

“This could help identify that an environment is contaminated before a pandemic happens,” says Sepideh Pakpour, an Assistant Professor of Engineering who led the research team at UBC’s Okanagan Campus.

The team proved that a technique known as “magnetic levitation,” the same technology used for high-speed trains, can be used to easily collect and concentrate viruses from air.

The system first collects air samples, then injects the sample into a fluid where the magnetic levitation device separates air-born viruses from other particles.

Then, the isolated virus is identified.

To prove the effectiveness of the system, the team used a deactivated version of the coronavirus responsible for COVID-19, along with H1N1 influenza and a virus that infects bacteria known as bacteriophage MS2.

The researchers claim that the system is straightforward and could be implemented in areas where airborne viruses poses a health-risk, like in hospitals and airports.

In addition to serving as an early-warning system, the team’s findings also could also help health officials and epidemiologists better track and trace exposure to viruses in public settings.

The team is now taking the first steps toward commercializing the technology.

To learn more about the project and other UBCO research, visit

READ MORE: ‘Canada needs to step it up’ to prevent youth from vaping says Kelowna researcher


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Jacqueline Gelineau

About the Author: Jacqueline Gelineau

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