IISc. researchers building electro-mechanical ventilator prototype from scratch

Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru.

Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru.  

Using only components found or made in India, they hope to ready it in a few weeks

As India races to overcome the possibility of a shortage of ventilators in its battle against COVID-19, a team of engineers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc.) is building a prototype of an electro-mechanical ventilator from scratch, using only components found or made in India. It is expected to be ready within the next few weeks.

The project, which is based on guidelines issued by the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, is aimed at countering the challenge of manufacturers being unable to source key components such as sensors and flow controllers from abroad due to the current disruptions in global supply chains.

“We are building it so that anyone can use it free of cost,” T.V. Prabhakar, Principal Research Scientist at the Department of Electronic Systems Engineering (DESE) and one of the founders of the project, was quoted as saying in an IISc release.

Gaurab Banerjee, Associate Professor at the Department of Electrical Communication Engineering and one of the project coordinators, said they have been working on it since 10 days. “We hope that by the end of April, manufacturers can have their own prototypes done, which they can scale up very quickly,” he added.

According to the release, there are currently around 40,000 ventilators available across the country, but if the number of severe cases surges, several thousands more may need to be produced very quickly.

“Patients with severe COVID-19 infection have inflamed or damaged lungs that struggle to receive sufficient oxygen. When doctors put them on a ventilator, the machine critically assists lung function, feeding the patients a controlled mixture of air and oxygen and buying their body time to fight the infection. A well-designed ventilator has built-in sensors and actuators that allow doctors to set the volume and pressure of gas delivered to the patient precisely, which depends on the severity of their illness,” the release said, explaining the need for the project.

To overcome the unavailability of ventilator components not manufactured in India, the IISc. team is building some components and co-opting others. To store and mix air and oxygen, for example, they reused sedimentation tanks found in household RO water purifiers. “The mixing process that we have come up with has parallels to those in gas turbines and industrial burners, where the ratio of fuel and oxidizer is carefully controlled,” team member Pratikash Panda, Assistant Professor at the Department of Aerospace Engineering said.

Controlling the pressure at which gas is pumped into the patient’s lungs is crucial. To check pressure levels, the team used sensors similar to those used to detect air pressure in car tyres. The team is also developing a flow rate sensor, which shows exactly how much air is flowing into the patient’s lungs, from scratch.

The team is also getting inputs from doctors to simplify the interface and create a dashboard preloaded with approved settings, allowing it to be operated quickly in an emergency even by untrained technicians or nurses, said the release.

The researchers are already working with potential manufacturers to check the inventory of critical components before including them in the final design, according to team member Manish Arora, Assistant Professor at the Centre for Product Design and Manufacturing.

The project has also received technical inputs from nearly 100 volunteers. “Companies such as Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited have expressed interest in supporting mass production,” the release added.

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Printable version | Jun 1, 2020 3:25:30 PM |

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