EAGER: Portable device for rapid and label-free identification of COVID-19 using an ultra-miniature handheld Raman spectrometer

Project: Research project

Project Details


A major critical gap in fighting the spread of COVID-19 has been (and will continue to be) the availability of safe and fast, point-of-care testing devices to rapidly detect infection by SARS-CoV-2. To this end, the vision of this project is to design and construct a portable optical platform to identify the presence of a virus in real time. The objective of developing this novel platform is to provide a robust prototype to identify viruses in a few minutes, with larger than 90 % accuracy. The project will integrate three different technologies, independently developed at Penn State University and Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), to establish feasibility of mass production and deployment of such a device. Potentially this device could also in the future be used to identify other, new emerging viruses and quickly mitigate outbreaks and pandemics.

A team of virologists, data scientists, space scientists and spectroscopists will leverage existing JPL technology developed for the detection of water on the surface of the Moon, combined with a carbon nanotube, virus enrichment platform, in conjunction with a novel 2D metal surface able to enhance the signal-to-noise ratio of virus Raman spectra. Researchers will then obtain the Raman signature of different coronaviruses and will develop a robust data repository and machine learning models that can be used to store and process Raman spectra in real-time from different locations. The goal of this effort is to enable the quick identification of viruses in a label-free manner, with high sensitivity and specificity - this means no specific antibodies or polymerase chain reaction would be necessary for the detection of SARS-CoV-2. Development of these new capabilities will provide insights into material, surface-virus interactions, the fundamentals of the Raman spectra of viruses and machine learning models for virus identification via Raman spectroscopy.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Effective start/end date6/1/205/31/22


  • National Science Foundation: $300,000.00


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