World-leading research into the science of trace detection to develop a tool which rapidly and accurately detects coronavirus and other surface viruses is being undertaken by University of Tasmania academics in partnership with GreyScan.
The project aims to provide proof-of-concept for the world's first mobile virus detection device, the TVD-1, through laboratory research which will develop the chemistry needed to identify SARS-CoV-2 in the field.
UTAS researcher Michael Breadmore said the project expanded on trace explosives detection technology invented by his team which was 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 the diagnostic space."
Studies have found that SARS-CoV-2 can survive on surfaces for many days but a tool which could test an environment such as a hospital or school to see if it is clear of the virus is yet to be developed.
GreyScan chief executive 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.
"Through our technology and the development of the TVD-1, GreyScan's goal is to enable the public to feel safe again and be able to return to their normal routines," Ms Ollerton said.
"It is critical to be able to demonstrate that cleaning or decontamination protocols have been followed and to encourage trust back into society.
"The use of contact tracing and people testing will be augmented by the capability of the TVD-1, providing fast, accurate detection that can be used by anyone anywhere.
"This is a product for the future fight against this and any other viruses that we encounter in our lifetimes."