What is it about?

The COVID-19 pandemic has been disruptive in many ways. But, it had one silver lining: it united research communities in a search for solutions. They made a significant global effort to improve existing healthcare technologies. One such faction contributed to optical technologies. In a study, researchers marked out two pathways to help: 1. Develop quick solutions to address pressing needs. 2. Develop solutions for the future. These would help develop formulate the treatment for COVID-19; it would accelerate vaccine development as well. A new study explores these advancements. It tells us how photonics research has helped us deal with the pandemic. What did the authors find? The immediate solutions worked on improving disease control. This included fabrication of protective equipment, like: • Face masks and face shields; • Respirators for healthcare workers who were in close contact with those infected. Optical technologies proved useful in infection control as well. In fact, one of these, ultraviolet radiation, was among the CDC recommended methods for disinfection. Among the longer term solutions offered by optics, one was diagnosis and screening. Some optical techniques, like quantitative PCR, were indispensable in the diagnosis of COVID-19. Optics majorly contributed to screening for the disease as well. For example, pulse oximeters detected oxygen saturation. Infrared sensors detected fever. These signs helped screen suspected cases of COVID-19.

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Why is it important?

Optical technologies have been almost omnipresent in the pandemic. They've helped in multiple areas and continue to do so. Further research in this field hints at a combination of optics and artificial intelligence (AI). This would increase the accuracy of existing technologies. How would that help us? AI with optics could result in accurate diagnostics. This increased accuracy aids clinicians in their treatment planning. It helps screen and monitor those with COVID-19. It could help automate infection control. The prospects are endless! KEY TAKEAWAY: Optics have helped in many ways during the COVID-19 pandemic. The field offered a chance to repurpose existing technologies in a short time. This way, it provided useful solutions to help manage the pandemic. Optics has contributed to improved infection control, diagnostics, and therapeutic development. It continues to do so and might be with AI in the future. This would vastly improve the accuracy of optical technologies.

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This page is a summary of: Engineering photonics solutions for COVID-19, APL Photonics, September 2020, American Institute of Physics, DOI: 10.1063/5.0021270.
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