A group of scientists based out of Aberdeen University are using their knowledge and skills building ‘assist systems’ on manned space missions to help develop a ventilator prototype to help coronavirus patients.
The team is hoping that the device, named ATMO-Vent (Atmospheric Mixture Optimisation Ventilator), can be created quickly and cheaply using certified, low-cost components so it can be rolled out in nations that have more underdeveloped healthcare systems.
Leader of the design team, Prof Javier Martín-Torres, commented: “As a multidisciplinary research group specialising in Martian study, we have a wealth of experience in building, calibrating and qualifying space instruments using commercial components. We’ve used this expertise to design and build a fully operating prototype ventilator using widely available parts.
“This means that it is easy to build and ideally suited to rapid, mass deployment in healthcare settings. This will be especially useful in countries with underdeveloped healthcare infrastructure.
“The ATMO-Vent has been designed to comply with UK regulatory guidelines, and we are now in the testing phase as we seek industrial and healthcare partners to collaborate with us on its continued development.”
As countries such as the UK and the US scramble to gain access to ventilators as the virus spreads, concerns have been raised about healthcare systems in countries such as Africa being able to handle a large outbreak of the disease.
Several countries across Africa are beginning to confirm rising cases, and limited testing makes it difficult to know the true scale of the outbreak there.
The World Health Organisation says that, compared with more than 170,000 ventilators in the US, ten countries in Africa have none.
As well as this, there are only around 5,000 critical care beds across 43 African countries, putting them at huge risk over being overwhelmed by a serious outbreak.
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“As a group we have watched the spread of COVID-19 with growing alarm, and we wanted to use our expertise to help,” Martín-Torres continued.
“Our hope is that the ATMO-Vent’s cost-effective design and short development time means it can rapidly supplement the number of ventilators being produced by manufacturers.”
Marion Campbell, vice-principal for research at the University of Aberdeen, added: “Across multiple disciplines, our research community is working as part of a broad effort to harness our world-renowned academic expertise in the fight against COVID-19.
“The work of Professor Martin-Torres and the Planetary Science Group in developing this ventilator is a prime example of how our researchers are applying their skills to meet the challenges created by the pandemic.”
The technology isn’t currently certified for use, but the group hopes it can be deployed soon.