Imperial academics design low cost emergency ventilator


Dr Michael Madekurozwa

Imperial academics have designed a simple emergency ventilator that can be manufactured quickly and at low cost from generic components.

The researchers from the departments of Bioengineering and Surgery and Cancer have produced a ventilator design that they believe could support health systems during the COVID-19 pandemic, both in high income countries and low or middle income countries, where the pressure on resources is likely to be even greater.

Because the ventilator uses off-the-shelf components, its parts can in principle be sourced more quickly and at lower cost than proprietary components. The team estimates the cost of the components in the UK at £1,000 - £1,500. The design also makes it possible to avoid supply bottlenecks since equivalent parts may be available from a variety of manufacturers.

Engineering and medicine expertise

The design draws on the clinical expertise of Dr Jakob Mathiszig-Lee, a researcher and senior anaesthetic registrar at the Royal Brompton Hospital, and the engineering credentials of Dr Joseph Sherwood, Dr Michael Madekurozwa and Professor James Moore Jr, medical devices experts in Imperial’s Department of Bioengineering.

Professor Moore said: “Dr Mathiszig-Lee’s expertise has helped ensure we have a thorough understanding of the technical requirements such as pressure and flow. He has also helped us understand what a clinician is going to expect to see in a ventilator design.”

Simple design

The team has produced a simple design that uses two pressure transducers, an airtight container and a series of solenoid valves to control the pressure of the air entering the patient’s lungs and avoids the need for a balloon to pump the oxygen. It is simple to assemble and operate and can be run from a standard PC.

The team is building the device to meet the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency’s (MHRA) requirements. “When the MHRA guidelines came out, our initial finding was that we were already meeting or exceeding everything that they were asking for with the early prototype at that time,” said Professor Moore. The team is working with academic collaborators to acquire further testing data.

From design to manufacture

Professor Moore said: “It’s a credit to the environment and culture of collaboration we have at Imperial that we were able to quickly assemble a team drawing on our combined experience in engineering and medicine. The College has been very supportive and found the resources to get work started.”

The team is looking for health organisations, manufacturers and other organisations interested in helping take the device from design to manufacture. Donations are also being welcomed to fund production of the systems using manufacturers the team is already in contact with. 

More information on the design can be found on the emergency ventilator webpage.

Dr Simon Hepworth, Imperial’s Director of Enterprise, said: “This is an important project with life-saving potential. We would encourage any organisations who are interested in working with the researchers to get in touch.”


David Silverman

David Silverman

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Entrepreneurship, Imperial-Consultants, Comms-strategy-Real-world-benefits, Global-challenges-Health-and-wellbeing, Viruses, Coronavirus, Comms-strategy-Entrepreneurial-ecosystem, Enterprise
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