The COVID-19 pandemic revealed fundamental limitations in the current model for infectious disease diagnosis and serology, based upon complex assay workflows, laboratory-based instrumentation, and expensive materials for managing samples and reagents. The lengthy time delays required to obtain test results, the high cost of gold-standard PCR tests, and poor sensitivity of rapid point-of-care tests contributed directly to society's inability to efficiently identify COVID-19-positive individuals for quarantine, which in turn continues to impact return to normal activities throughout the economy. Over the past year, enormous resources have been invested to develop more effective rapid tests and laboratory tests with greater throughput, yet the vast majority of engineering and chemistry approaches are merely incremental improvements to existing methods for nucleic acid amplification, lateral flow test strips, and enzymatic amplification assays for protein-based biomarkers. Meanwhile, widespread commercial availability of new test kits continues to be hampered by the cost and time required to develop single-use disposable microfluidic plastic cartridges manufactured by injection molding. Through development of novel technologies for sensitive, selective, rapid, and robust viral detection and more efficient approaches for scalable manufacturing of microfluidic devices, we can be much better prepared for future management of infectious pathogen outbreaks. Here, we describe how photonic metamaterials, graphene nanomaterials, designer DNA nanostructures, and polymers amenable to scalable additive manufacturing are being applied towards overcoming the fundamental limitations of currently dominant COVID-19 diagnostic approaches. In this paper, we review how several distinct classes of nanomaterials and nanochemistry enable simple assay workflows, high sensitivity, inexpensive instrumentation, point-of-care sample-to-answer virus diagnosis, and rapidly scaled manufacturing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100966
JournalCurrent Opinion in Solid State and Materials Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2022


  • Additive manufactured materials
  • COVID-19 diagnostics
  • Nanochemistry
  • Nanomaterials
  • Nanostructures
  • Nucleic acid engineering
  • Point-of-care diagnosis
  • SARS-CoV-2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Overcoming the limitations of COVID-19 diagnostics with nanostructures, nucleic acid engineering, and additive manufacturing'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this