ICFO researchers support the fight against COVID-19

By June 22, 2020ICFO

Researchers at The Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO), a BIST centre are currently working to fight COVID-19 through two new projects: one focuses on effectively disinfecting work spaces including offices, schools, healthcare facilities, and public transportation, and the second aims to develop a device that can instantly detect whether an individual has been infected with the coronavirus.

The SARS-CoV-2 outbreak is posing an extraordinary challenge that requires swift worldwide action for the massive deployment of affordable and ready-to-apply measures to drastically reduce its transmission probabilities. This includes the need for disinfecting indoor spaces to facilitate the eventual return to conventional activities such as working at the office, going to school, or even attending entertainment events. It also calls for ready-to-use instant tests to determine whether individuals have COVID-19 or not.

At the Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO), a BIST centre, a study was recently published in ACS Nano by ICREA Professor at ICFO Javier García de Abajo (winner of a 2016 BIST Ignite Grant),  in collaboration with ICREA Professors Andreas Meyerhans (Universitat Pompeu Fabra) and Joan Rosell-Llompart (University Rovira i Virgili), together with Professors Rufino Javier Hernández (University of the Basque Country), Ido Kaminer (Technion), and Tilman Sanchez-Elsner (University of Southampton), experts in the fields of virology, immunology, aerosols, architecture, and physics. The researchers have surveyed the possible methods to prevent SARS-CoV-2 propagation in indoor spaces. Following this survey, they advocate for one measure that they believe to be particularly efficient, easily deployable, and economically affordable: virus inactivation by ultraviolet light.

The study gives information on the currently available UV-C sources, such as fluorescent lamps, microcavity plasmas, and LEDs, emphasising that, by irradiating this type of light inside the ventilation systems of buildings and in shared indoor spaces while not in use, it is possible to quickly and efficiently deactivate airborne and surface-deposited SARS-CoV-2 viruses.

Also at ICFO, ICREA Professor Turgut Durduran (winner of a 2020 BIST Ignite Award) and his team have customised commercial, near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) devices to help get a detailed evaluation of a patient’s blood vessels, which perfuse the body’s tissues. The unit is placed on a patient’s forearm and sees changes in their microvascular blood oxygenation to help determine whether aggressive respiratory therapy is needed. Three of these compact units are currently being tested in four hospitals in Barcelona.

More information can be found on the ICFO website.