Scientists develop face mask sensor that can detect coronavirus
The average face mask is limited to preventing the spread of viruses, but scientists believe high-tech versions will let you know when they have detected a nearby virus. Marijan Murat/dpa

Scientists in China say they have developed a sensor to be worn on face masks that can detect small amounts of coronavirus and other flu viruses in the air and alert the wearer on their smartphone.

With a "real-time detection platform for various respiratory infectious diseases," the device could serve as an early warning system to prevent viral outbreaks, according to research published in the scientific journal Matter.

The postage stamp-sized sensor, which can be attached to common face masks, can transmit a warning to a smartphone within 10 minutes to alert the user to the danger, say the device's six developers at Shanghai's Tongji University.

"Wearable sensor platforms for analyzing airborne media remain underexplored," say the researchers, who note that their sensor has the potential to identify viruses such as H1N1, H5N1 and SARS-CoV-2. The cost of the device was not mentioned.