One remarkable up-shot of the coronavirus outbreak is that it is triggering extraordinary innovation and problem-solving. A team of engineers and scientists got together to produce a prototype of an emergency ventilator in just one week.
It was like a scene out of the 1995 real-life space thriller Apollo 13. A group of scientists sprang into action to address the looming crisis.
"Our team focused on a simple design of the emergency ventilator," says Bill King, a professor of engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. "It's something that could be very scaled into production quickly to meet the needs that may come here in the next weeks and months."
More than 40 engineers, doctors, medical professionals, and designers worked around the clock for a week to produce the "Illinois RapidVent."
"It's a simple device it's a small smaller than a loaf of bread," says King.
Rashid Bashir, the dean of the Grainger college of engineering at the university and a professor of bioengineering, says the compactness of the device means it can be used almost anywhere.
"This is a portable device; it's handheld, and it runs off of the oxygen from an ICU room," explains Bashir. "It does not need electricity."
The prototype for the emergency ventilator has run for more than 75 hours and 175,000 breathing cycles.
"This design and the engineering knowledge we've created are available for free," says ???
Researchers say they hope it can serve as a stop-gap measure as manufacturers ramp up production of full-scale hospital-grade ventilators.
"Physicians, nurses, they're doing an amazing job," says Bashir. "Being at the frontline, I think we need to do all we can to support them, and that's what we're trying to do as engineers and scientists. We want to get the technologies in their hands so that they can help the patients."
The next step, say researchers, is to find partners and resources to seek FDA approval and produce the "Illinois RapidVent" for mass manufacturing.