Anyone traveling (or preparing to do so) in times of a pandemic will know of the need to take Covid tests before a flight. Those unfortunate enough to have fallen ill, on the other hand, will know the stress of having to wait for the results for endless hours (or days).
To make Covid tests cheaper and more accessible, someone has thought of using everyday objects. The organic chemist Vittorio Saggiomo, from the Bionanotechnology group of the University and Research of Wageningen in the Netherlands, thought of coffee capsules. I would like to say "in contrast", being Saggiomo a Neapolitan fellow citizen of mine. Obviously it was not possible with the mocha.
The study by Saggiomo and his team on the subject is published on the ChemArxiv preprint server.
Test you do, pros and cons you find
Different Covid tests have different pros and cons in their dynamics. The PCR test, for example, is the most accurate. However, this Covid test requires a carefully regulated temperature cycle with special equipment in a lab, for those that are more time-consuming and more expensive.
Il lateral flow test (LFT) it is much cheaper and faster, but also less accurate, and detects the disease only in people with high viral loads.
CoroNaspresso, Covid test with coffee capsules
Saggiomo and his team's test kits, nicknamed CoroNaspresso, are Covid tests of "loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP)" made using a hot pan and coffee capsules (like Nespresso ones, for instance).
Well. We have a non-instrumental device, super cheap, easy to produce in millions of copies, almost universal and with a low impact on waste. Too good to be true?
How the Covid CoroNaspresso test works
Let's start by saying that this type of Covid test (the LAMP) has a great advantage: it can be carried out at a fixed temperature (about 65 ° C or 150 ° F). This, plus the fact that the test uses a simple acid-based color indicator to indicate positive or negative, made it ideal for Saggiomo to try to create a routine to do at home using simple appliances.
Coffee capsules: here is the Covid test at home
To regulate the temperature for testing, scientists typically use electrical thermostats. Trivially, Saggiomo was working from home and was looking for an easy solution. He thus reviewed so-called "phase change" substances, which absorb heat when they melt and maintain a constant temperature.
Among them, Saggiomo found a wax made of a phase change material that melted at the exact temperature he needed. He then built a device to house the LAMP test reaction tubes and pieces of wax.
All of this had to be placed in a shell that could be heated without melting. The perfect candidates? The staple of Saggiomo's breakfast routine: coffee capsules.
No Nespresso, though.
After testing different methods of heating the device, Saggiomo found the best method: a simple pot of boiling water on a stove.
Saggiomo then asked his team members to test the "CoroNaspresso" device. In these Covid tests, the swabs of six people correctly identified three cases of COVID-19 by showing different colors. The team of researchers say the test, including the coffee capsules, phase change wax and vials, would be easy to produce in millions of pieces.
People could do the tampon at home and heat the capsules to get the results.
The cost of each device would be negligible: around € 0,20, easy to use and also largely recyclable.
Saggiomo's work could be a pure stroke of genius.
A feature typically reserved for advanced machines could now be extended anywhere and to everyone.