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New soft, flexible nasal swabs to aid in better Covid testing
New York, April 12 - A Q-tip cotton swab inserted into your nose to gauge the presence of Covid-19 infections is a pain and not a pleasant experience. Now, that can soon become history with a new swab made of thin, hairlike structures may be easy not only on the nose but also for faster absorbing and releasing samples.
The new swab, called the InstaSwab, was developed by Jifei Ou, a doctoral researcher at 3D printing systems in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab in the US. It is developed using a flexible polymer structure and a highly absorbent tip made from a tiny woven lattice.
InstaSwab contain porous microstructures within their heads that are tuned to collect and retain fluid. It can quickly release the fluid when it enters a test vial -- 20 times the amount of bacteria compared to traditional Q-tip-like cotton swabs.
That's important because more specimens increases the sensitivity of tests, particularly rapid tests, according to Ou.
Traditional nasal swabs are made from cotton, polyester, or foam and a handle made from wood, rolled paper, or even plastic. While they are easy and cheap to manufacture but not comfortable when used.
"Swabs need to be soft, flexible, the structures on the tip need to be very intricate. That's what we do," Ou said.
The tiny woven lattices within the InstaSwab helps in the easy absorption and releasing of more fluid than the conventional swabs.
The InstaSwabs are manufactured by OPT Industries, founded by Ou, using an additive manufacturing process. The company currently is producing 80,000 swabs a day, and it is building newer versions of its machines that can produce products even more quickly, Ou said.
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