Viruses are so small that to be able to detect them using light you need instruments that work on the nanoscale. Sensors so perfect are very hard to make, as most manufacturing processes disrupt nanoscale structures.
Now, a team at Purdue University has developed a way to combine 3D plasmonic nanoarrays, special light manipulation devices, with peelable films that can be applied to just about anything. They were then able to successfully combine the new stickers with conventional imaging systems to detect extremely small optical signals.
Since the manufacturing process is performed in distilled water, at room temperature, and without harsh chemicals or physical methods, it is very gentle and allows the researchers to maintain perfect nanoscale precision.
The nanoarrays are integrated into a film on a silicon wafer. When placed in water, the film peels away and the wafer can be used again, making it cheap and fast to make these devices.
Next steps for this technology will be attempting to detect target proteins, such as viral proteins, and then hopefully moving onto other targets.