Imperial College London

Imperial respiratory health device receives national James Dyson Award


A sick old man coughing and getting medical attention by a female doctor in doctor's office.

Pleural was designed by Imperial students to help combat mucus in the lungs, commonly seen in patients with asthma, COPD and cystic fibrosis.

A device that helps ease mucus buildup has been named as the national winner of the UK James Dyson Awards 2023, which celebrates designers with an up-and-coming idea to solve global problems. 

The team hope Pleural could one day ease discomfort for those who suffer from mucus-related conditions — like asthma, cystic fibrosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) — which they say affects 3.9 million people. 

Designed by Imperial Innovation Design Engineering MSc students at the Dyson School of Design Engineering, Daniel Hale, Will Eliot, Fergus Laidlaw and Yihan Dong, Pleural administers ‘chest physiotherapy’ to help expel mucus from the airways.  

"Winning the James Dyson award means that we’ll be able to develop Pleural and take this product to those affected by mucus-related respiratory health conditions, impacting their lives for the better." Daniel Hale Lead engineer for Pleural

Other handheld devices are either too difficult or too expensive for most patients to use, the team say.  

The device uses artificial intelligence (AI) to mimic a doctor applying chest percussion to sufferers whilst also monitoring breathing rates, which ensures the force applied is tailored to each patient but takes years of training. 

With Pleural, users place the device on their chest, while it produces percussion and vibration to dislodge and thin the mucus in the chest, allowing them to expel the mucus independently at home.  

Speaking to the Press Association, Daniel Hale, engineering lead for Pleural, said: “Winning the James Dyson award means that we’ll be able to develop Pleural and take this product to those affected by mucus-related respiratory health conditions, impacting their lives for the better. 

“The James Dyson Award represents the forefront of innovation to us, particularly in the UK, and has been something we’ve all tracked as long as we’ve been designers. 

“It’s a huge honour that Pleural has been selected as the UK National Winner in 2023 to join many of the proposals we’ve admired over the years, and we look forward to developing Pleural further.” 

A device charging on a nightstand
The team hope Pleural can make a difference to those that suffer mucus-related health issues

This is the third time in four years an Imperial team has received a national James Dyson award. 

The 2022 winner of the national James Dyson Award was Dotplot, a breast monitoring device founded by Imperial MSc Innovation Design Engineering students, Debra Babalola and Shefali Bohra. 

Both runners up of the James Dyson national award are from Imperial. 

Silent oceans 

An image of the Reef dB tool
Reef dB aims to reduce underwater sound pollution

Reef dB is a structure by Eden Harrison from Imperial’s MSc Innovation Design Engineering, designed to filter underwater noise pollution from offshore windfarms while regenerating the ocean floor. By forming a barrier around wind turbines, the structures prevent sound transmission through vibration and resonance, instead dissipating sound energy as heat, while also providing attachment points for sea creatures.  

Tissue paper diagnosis  

A medical test with red dots on
Viwipe harnesses the power of biological markers in menstrual blood

Viwipe is the world’s first non-invasive, affordable and paper-based HPV self-test, designed by Yihan Dong, who also cofounded Pleural, and Dr Kenny Malpartida Cardenas (Research Fellow in the Department of Infectious Disease).   

More than 300,000 women lose their lives to cervical cancer every year, of which 99% of cases are linked to HPV.  The team have harnessed the power of important biological markers which are found in menstrual blood to accurately detect HPV in the form of a simple sheet of ‘toilet paper’. 

The founders hope to see their product in universities, where women can pick up a test package, use the test, like toilet paper, and post it back to the lab to be analysed.

Main image credit: Shutterstock

Image credit: Imperial College London



Bryony Ravate

Bryony Ravate
Communications Division


Engineering-Design-Eng, Student-entrepreneurship, Students, Imperial-Innovations
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