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Machine that ‘sniffs’ Covid-19 particles tested at UK airport

These machines can detect airborne coronavirus particles and provide results in real time (Kromek)

A UK tech firm is testing a machine that can detect airborne coronavirus particles in the North East.

The devices, which provide results in real time, are being trialled at a school in Darlington and at Teesside International Airport.

The machines work by sucking in air and turning it into a liquid that can be genetically sequenced.

The County Durham firm behind the tech, Kromek, say the devices could help bolster test and trace efforts by spotting virus particles early.

The company initially developed the office printer-sized devices to detect airborne pathogens, toxic gases and other security threats.

The firm recieved government funding to adapt their threat detection tech for the pandemic earlier this year, winning a £1.25m investment from Innovate UK.

It’s also working on an expanded system that can detect all known, novel and mutating bacterias and viruses as part of a contract with the US Department of Defence.

‘Groundbreaking’ technology

Kromek CEO Dr Arnab Basu told Sky News: ‘Our system can augment the government’s Test and Trace system by enabling early identification of potential exposure to the virus while supporting the safe return of visitors to public spaces like mass transport, retail outlets and entertainment venues.

‘We also believe that the continuous monitoring with our system, which can test for a wide spectrum of viruses as well as mutations of COVID-19, has significant potential for protecting against the outbreak of pandemics in the future.’

Teesside mayor Ben Houchen called the new tech ‘groundbreaking’ on Twitter.

He said in a statement: ‘We’re delighted Teesside is not just one of the first airports, but one of the first buildings, to be trialling this new detector, which could be a real game-changer.

‘Since day one of the pandemic, the airport has put the health and wellbeing of people across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool at the front of everything we’ve done, and with this pilot we can play our part in helping to protecting the health of thousands of others.’

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