Materion Optical Filters Help Detect Coronavirus

2 min


These days, the news is dominated with the latest updates about the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and how it is impacting the world - everything from travel to global stock markets. The highly contagious Coronavirus family contains strains that can be contracted by humans through direct contact, much like the flu, it is easily transmitted and can cause severe respiratory illnesses. The ability to detect this virus will hopefully lead to its decline and Materion is proud to be playing a crucial part in the detection of this illness.


The Precision Coatings team’s optical filters are a key part of the optical measurement in PCR systems that are being used to detect the COVID-19 virus. The Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) system allows for rapid and highly specific diagnosis of infectious diseases, including those caused by bacteria or viruses. PCR systems permit identification of non-cultivatable or slow-growing microorganisms such as viruses from tissue cultures such as a swab in the nose or mouth.

PCR methods detect viral nucleic acids directly, and therefore can identify recently infected donors who have not yet produced antibodies or symptoms. For example, the Coronavirus incubation period is estimated around 14 days but can detectable by PCR systems prior to symptoms of the infection appearing. Without laboratory testing, there's no way to tell for sure if a person has contracted the Coronavirus versus a more commonplace viral illness like the flu.

A positive test result suggests likely infection at which time the individuals can work with their healthcare provider to manage their symptoms and be quarantined to better protect the people around them. Early detection is the key to help stop the spread of the virus.


TF PCR 7500 Optical FilterPCR mimics what happens in cells when DNA is copied (replicated) prior to cell division, but it is carried out in controlled conditions in a laboratory. The system that is used is simply called a PCR machine or a thermocycler. Test tubes containing the DNA mixture of interest are put into the machine, and the machine changes the temperature of the samples very precisely to suit each step of the analytical process.

PCR systems use optical excitation and emission filters that allow for the detection of a broader range of fluorophores (fluorescent chemical compound that can re-emit light upon light excitation) that can be used for multiplexing (integrating multiple signals). We make those very precise optical filters at Materion PC in Westford, Massachusetts.


Not surprisingly there is an increased demand from test labs around the world. Materion’s Precision Coatings is currenltly fulfilling  orders to support this increase.  

Kudos to the entire PC team who hit the ground running to commit to quickly filling this order, the Procurement team for sourcing the materials needed, and the Operations and Manufacturing teams for ramping up to produce the filters.

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