In the midst of crisis, innovation is thriving. When entire communities of business and research pull together to deal with a single issue, amazing things can happen. We are excited to see that our favourites – the plasmonic nanoparticles – now appear to be one of the promising leads for new corona-testing technology.Plasmonic nanoparticles are tiny metallic particles that have unique optical properties, and extraordinary efficiency at absorbing and scattering light. This is not only useful for transparent solar cells, but also for development of biological and chemical sensors.
Last week a team of researchers based at ETH Zurich published a study prompted by the ongoing pandemic on how a new kind of plasmonic biosensor could provide a fast and sensitive alternative to the standard RT-PCR analysis for COVID-19. Faster tests would be very valuable in a situation where a large part of the population needs to be tested.
A different approach is being developed by the American company Nanopartz, that is aiming for COVID-19 detection in under 1 minute with their novel “plasmonic PCR”, proposed as a rapid and low-cost PCR. It is based on laser heating of plasmonic gold nanoparticles suspended in the PCR tube, where detection is done by measuring the optical absorption of the suspended nanoparticles.