Twenty-three-year-old PhD student Emalie Hayes is currently studying Civil Engineering at Dalhousie University. Last year, she created a COVID-19 testing device that can detect the virus through sewers.
The COVID-19 sewer cage, called the Cosca, is made by a 3D printer out of plastic, which takes several hours to print, and is then assembled by hand, which takes less than a minute.
“The Cosca is deployed into our sewer systems and it is able to sit in the flow of the wastewater. It contains an absorbent material that is able to interact with the wastewater and absorb any viral particles. We then pull the Cosca up from the wastewater and we’re able to analyze it in the lab,” said Hayes.
In comparison to traditional methods of waste water sampling that can be expensive, the Cosca is very cost-efficient, something Hayes wanted to consider when coming up with the design.
“It’s only about a dollar to print them and to analyze them,” she said.
To date, there are several units around the Halifax area and monitoring the residences at Dalhousie University, as well.
So far, around 100 of the devices have been sold across Canada and as far as France, the United Kingdom and Australia. The team has also donated some for research initiatives.
“We’ve been able to detect the virus using these in the North West Territories,” said Gen Erjavec, who is a research assistant.
Erjavec has been assisting with the research since the beginning of this year and says it has been a surreal experience.
“This project is so innovative and we’re always learning new things every day. To be a part of surveying the waste water in the region for COVID-19, it’s been incredible and I feel very grateful to be a part of this important research.”
Hayes says she is excited to see where she can take the research from here.
“I really think we can utilize this method beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, so I am really excited and passionate about this.”