Because of the common expectation that ventilators would be in dire shortage during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many teams around the world have developed simple ventilators that utilize bag valve masks (AmbuBags) to pump air in and out of the lungs. Most of these do not provide nuanced control of ventilation settings such as the inspiration and expiration ratio and pressure in the lungs.
A Georgia Tech team has just unveiled a prototype, portable, emergency ventilator that provides clinicians with the ability to manage the respiration rate, tidal volume, inspiration and expiration ratio, and pressure applied to the lungs. Patients’ own breaths can trigger the device to help ventilate at the same natural rate, hopefully improving outcomes.
“Our primary goal is to give the clinicians control over key parameters to ensure patient safety and improve ventilator functionality,” said Devesh Ranjan, a professor and associate chair in Georgia Tech’s George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, in an announcement. “Once the system is initialized, a small on-board computer operates to maintain the setpoints governing respiration in an unattended way. The sensors and computer provide more control and real-time monitoring for doctors and other medical staff.”
The new device, called Open-AirVentGT, is designed to be manufactured for about $300 using commonly available electronic, mechanical, and computer components. The core of the system is a cheap Raspberry Pi computer connected to a number of sensors and a motorized system to squeeze the bag valve mask.
All this was achieved in about three weeks and the team is already working toward having their device go through emergency approval procedures that the FDA and other regulatory agencies now have in place.
“We wanted to have easily sourced materials and use components that can be substituted where necessary,” said Gokul Pathikonda, a postdoctoral fellow and a lead on the project. “Supply chains are different in different parts of the world, so we wanted the design to be modular and with easily interchangeable parts.”
Here’s a Georgia Tech video about the project: