Students develop a low-cost portable ventilator

Jul 15, 2010
A working prototype of the mechanical ventilator developed by MIT students. They are working on a new version designed for easy manufacturability and maintenance. Photo: Patrick Gillooly

(PhysOrg.com) -- A team of students from MIT has devised a new low-cost ventilator to keep patients breathing in places that lack standard mechanical ventilators, or during times of emergency such as pandemics or natural disasters, when normal hospital resources may be overextended. They have designed a system that uses the same widely available manual pump — the same type used for the farmer in India. The new system encases the pump in a plastic box with a battery, motor and controls to take the place of the manual compression process.

There is a substantial need for such devices in many developing nations, especially in rural areas that have no access to existing ventilator technology. Dr. Jussi Saukkonen of Boston University Medical Center, who originally proposed the concept of the low-cost and worked with the MIT team, says that “it’s likely there would be millions of cases worldwide” that could benefit from such a device. In addition, a U.S. government study in 2005 found that in a worst-case scenario, this country alone might need more than 700,000 mechanical ventilators, while only 100,000 are now in use.

The kind of ventilators used in modern hospitals can cost up to $30,000, but the newly developed device can be produced for about $100, says Abdul Mohsen Al Husseini, a graduate student in and one of the students who developed the system. While there are some situations where it can’t perform all the same functions as the more expensive versions, for 98 percent of cases, this simple inexpensive device could do the job, he says.

“These manual devices are available everywhere,” Al Husseini says. “Our approach is to adapt them, since they’re already there.”

The simple system has a curved plastic cam that compresses the device and then releases. It has just three control knobs; these adjust the total volume of air delivered in each breath, the number of breaths per minute, and the ratio of time between inhaling and exhaling.

Al Husseini explains that the mechanical system could not only eliminate the need for a person to operate the device manually in an emergency — it could also be safer. “There’s a danger, with manual ventilation, of overpressurizing” the patient’s lungs, which can cause serious damage, he says. The new system includes a gauge that stops the flow before the pressure gets too high.

Graduate student Abdul al Husseini demonstrates the features of the mechanical ventilator he and his fellow students designed. Photo: Patrick Gillooly

The idea began as a class project in an MIT mechanical engineering course called Precision Machine Design, in which doctors from Boston-area hospitals present problems awaiting solutions, and the students choose which ones to address. A first prototype was developed in that class, and some of the students refined the design and produced a second prototype in a follow-up class, Development of Mechanical Products. They filed for a patent and presented a paper on the system to the Design of Medical Devices Conference in April of this year. Now some of the students are preparing to do further testing and develop the idea so it can be licensed for manufacturing.

One of the students, Amelia Servi, traveled to Nicaragua this summer to analyze the need for such a device and how to bring it to market as a real product, as part of her thesis research for her master’s degree.

Explore further: Lifting the brakes on fuel efficiency

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Students Build Smaller, Smarter Heart Pump

Apr 29, 2005

A miniaturized heart pump designed by a team of University of Florida engineering students could become a life-saving alternative for patients waiting in long lines for scarce donor hearts. The UF team is creating a dev ...

An a-maize-ing path out of poverty

Oct 02, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- Across Tanzania and elsewhere in Africa, processing the corn harvest is labor intensive: Families and friends gather to spend a day or two filling bags with the dried cobs, beating then to ...

Leveraging learning for artificial respiration

Sep 12, 2007

MIT researchers have found that the body's innate ability to adapt to recurring stimuli could be leveraged to design more effective and less costly artificial respirators. The new approach could minimize the ...

FDA OKs silver-coated breathing tube

Nov 08, 2007

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved for marketing a breathing tube coated with silver to be used by patients on ventilators.

Recommended for you

Lifting the brakes on fuel efficiency

Apr 18, 2014

The work of a research leader at Michigan Technological University is attracting attention from Michigan's Governor as well as automotive companies around the world. Xiaodi "Scott" Huang of Michigan Tech's ...

Large streams of data warn cars, banks and oil drillers

Apr 16, 2014

Better warning systems that alert motorists to a collision, make banks aware of the risk of losses on bad customers, and tell oil companies about potential problems with new drilling. This is the aim of AMIDST, the EU project ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

DaveGee
not rated yet Jul 18, 2010
Nice work... The only issue I see is this. The device is said to cost apx $100us vs a traditional ventilator that sells for $30,000us. The key words here are 'cost to make' vs. 'sells for'. In the US and I'm sure most of the free world you can't just make a medical device and set up a web site and start selling em.

What really happens is the device must be built with a certain level of redundancy and hardening or it would be rejected faster than .... thru a goose. The device must have special electrical plugs that are all but mandatory in the healthcare industry. Then the device must go thru a battery of tests as required by the FDA and like minded agencies. Now these tests aren't done for free and if your device fails you don't get a free 2nd shot. Each test adds to the devices cost and must be recooped by raising the price of said device. The come legal and insurance that may be necessary. The all adds up really quick .

More news stories

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...

A homemade solar lamp for developing countries

(Phys.org) —The solar lamp developed by the start-up LEDsafari is a more effective, safer, and less expensive form of illumination than the traditional oil lamp currently used by more than one billion people ...

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...