Roar Articles

Building a Rapid, Low-Cost Virus Test

Research conducted by:

Aida Ebrahimi, assistant professor of electrical engineering, Derrick Butler, graduate student in electrical engineering


COVID-19 viral virus

Research Summary:

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for a robust, low-cost, and sensitive virus detection platforms to help monitor and mitigate outbreaks. Penn State researchers came up with a new design for a biosensor that can be used to count single virion. The device relies on a generator-collector microelectrode design.

How Roar played a role in this research:

The team used Roar supercomputer to perform calculations necessary to create the virus detector.

Publication Details

Article Title:

Rapid and sensitive detection of viral particles by coupling redox cycling and electrophoretic enrichment

Published In:

Biosensors and Bioelectronics


The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for robust, low-cost, and sensitive virus detection platforms to monitor and mitigate widespread outbreaks. Electrochemical sensors are a viable choice to fill this role, but still require improvements to the signal magnitude, especially for early detection and low viral loads. Herein, finite element analysis of a novel biosensor concept for single virion counting using a generator-collector microelectrode design is presented. The proposed design combines a redox-cycling amplified electrochemical current with electrophoresis-driven electrode-particle collisions for rapid virus detection. The effects of experimental (e.g. scan rate, collector bias) and geometric factors are studied to optimize the sensor design. Two generator-collector configurations are explored: a ring-disk to analyze sessile droplets and an interdigitated electrode (IDE) housed in a microchannel. For the ring-disk configuration, we calculate an amplification factor of ∼5 and collector efficiency of ∼0.8 for a generator-collector spacing of 600 nm, both of which decrease rapidly as the electrode spacing increases. For the IDE, the collector efficiency is even larger, approaching unity. The dual-electrode mode is critical for increasing the current and electric field strength. As a result, the current steps upon virus capture are more than an order of magnitude larger compared to single-mode. Additionally, single virus capture times are reduced from over 700 s down to ∼20 s. Overall, the frequency of virus capture and magnitude of the electrochemical current steps depend on the virus properties and electrode configuration, with the IDE capable of single virus detection within seconds owing to better particle confinement in the microchannel.

View article on publisher's website

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