Coronavirus infection rates have decreased over the last few weeks, and several countries are planning to ease stay-at-home restrictions that will allow some businesses to open. The global economy is in free fall as both small and large companies struggle to survive. There is no specific treatment for coronavirus, and a vaccine is still months away. Virus testing for the coronavirus is key, but it’s difficult to administer to millions of people.
Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is a technique used to amplify small segments of DNA; in layman’s terms, once you have your throat swabbed during a coronavirus test, the swab is ready for polymerase chain reaction testing. This test is not cheap, and PCR testing is not 100% accurate. A positive test result is 100% accurate, but 30% of the time, you can receive a false negative result, meaning that people with an active COVID-19 infection still test negative for the disease.
The PCR test must be conducted by medical experts with specialized equipment. There will be a simple and less expensive test in the future, and electronics could play into this new test. I am not an expert in the medical field, but I am an expert in microelectronics. Is it possible to develop an electronic sensor that can detect the coronavirus? Let’s expand on that.
An Electronic Diagnosis for the Virus
Forehead thermometers with digital readings make it easy to measure body temperatures, and oxygen sensors measure oxygen concentration in blood, but both of these devices are available in drug stores and Amazon at a reasonable price. Can we develop a hybrid device that can measure a person’s body temperature and oxygen level in their blood? The device could be small enough to attach to your body and install a Bluetooth module. The device can send data to a control unit periodically and send a notification when parameters are exceeded. Let’s put a dollar figure on this.
Hardware components for this device are very practical, and the cost could be inexpensive, depending on volume production. The software can mimic the packages used in digital thermometers and oxygen sensors, and there is a lot of clinical data available for the analysis. Current AI technologies can analyze the data.
This is a practical idea, but it requires a lot of time and money to reach the approval stage. Until then, we will have to visit hospitals or urgent care facilities for COVID-19 testing. If there is any medical device that is created for COVID-19 testing, it could open new doors for digital disease detection.
1. TPCA (printed circuit association in Taiwan) 4/15
March shipment has rebounded 45% from February to 51 billion NT$ in March; flex circuits rebounded 162%, and ZD Technology rebounded 222%.
2. Taiwan Flex (flex circuit manufacturer in Taiwan) 4/18
Developed transparent flex circuits with transparent conductors; the transparent conductive inks were screen printed on transparent polyimide film.
3. Fujitsu (electronics company in Japan) 4/21
Developed a new thermo-conductive sheet of carbon nanotube with a conductivity of 100 W/mK; it will be valuable as the heat sink of the battery modules of EVs.
4. KEL (connector manufacturer in Japan) 4/22
Developed a series of wire harness capable of high-speed telecommunication up to 320 Gb/second with 0.55-mm pitch cables.
5. Oki Cable (second-tier flex circuit manufacture in Japan) 4/24
Developed expandable flexible circuits built on a urethane sheet; copper foil conductors provide high conductivity.
6. Fuji Chimera Research (market research firm in Japan) 4/27
Published a report about ECU and relating devices used in automobiles, which estimates the market will be over 17 trillion yen in 2030.
7. Mitsui Metal Smelting (copper foil supplier in Japan) 4/27
Started volume supply of ultra-thin copper foil (1.5–6 microns) with carrier foil “MT-GN” for sub-6 GHz band printed circuits.
8. Nippon Chemi-Con (device supplier in Japan) 4/26
Developed a hybrid aluminum electrolytic capacitor with SMT package and can-lead package based on conductive polymer.
9. Ibiden (circuit board manufacturer in Japan) 4/30
Invested 130 billion yen in Ogaki Plant in Gifu Prefecture to enlarge the manufacturing capacity of semiconductor substrates.
10. Tokyo and Tohoku University (Japan) 5/1
Succeeded to enlarge the Nernst effect of iron 20 times, adding aluminum and gallium; the thermoelectric effect will generate electric power for IoT devices.
11. Sumitomo Chemical (chemical company in Japan) 4/30
Co-developed a high-purity aluminum foil as the stable electrode of lithium-ion batteries with Tohoku University that does not swell during charge and discharge.
12. ALPSALPINE (device manufacturer in Japan) 4/30
Unveiled the idea of a touchless switching panel, which will eliminate the risks of the infections; the actual device will be commercialized in 2021.
13. JEITA (electronic industry organization in Japan) 5/1
Released the roadmap of the connectors as a part of electronic packaging in 2019; automobiles will be the major in the industry.
14. Molex Japan (connector supplier in Japan) 5/1
Rolled out a board-to-board connector series Slim Stack series with 0.35-mm pitch and 0.8-mm height for compact mobile devices.
Dominique K. Numakura is the managing director of DKN Research LLC. Contact email@example.com for further information and news.