Aberdeen space scientists develop Covid-19 ventilator

A prototype ventilator based on life support systems used for space exploration could soon be used to help treat Covid-19 patients.

Developed by a team at the University of Aberdeen’s Planetary Science group, the device – known as ATMO-Vent (Atmospheric Mixture Optimisation Ventilator) – uses certified and low cost off the shelf components and is claimed to be quicker to build, more cost-effective and more user-friendly than other models in development.

The group is now working to have the device officially certified, so that it can be rapidly deployed in healthcare settings worldwide.

Professor Javier Martín-Torres, who heads the University’s Planetary Science Group said: “We have a wealth of experience in building, calibrating and qualifying space instruments using commercial components. We’ve used this expertise to design and build a fully operating prototype ventilator using widely available parts. This means that it is easy to build and ideally suited to rapid, mass deployment in healthcare settings.

The system has been designed to comply with the requirements outlined in the UK Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency guidelines to build a Rapidly Manufactured Ventilator System (RMVS).

More Covid-19 technology news from The Engineer

The ventilator is in the fully operating prototype stage awaiting certification of all hardware and software components. Once Certified, the design can be scaled and reproduced quickly. The design team is also in the process of submitting an article in HardwareX (Special Issue on Open-Source COVID19 Medical Hardware), describing the procedure to build and operate ATMO-Vent.

Marion Campbell, Vice Principal for Research at the University of Aberdeen, said: “Across multiple disciplines, our research community is working as part of a broad effort to harness our world-renowned academic expertise in the fight against Covid-19.

“The work of Professor Martin-Torres and the Planetary Science Group in developing this ventilator is a prime example of how our researchers are applying their skills to meet the challenges created by the pandemic.”

Martin-Torres added that the technology may ultimately have applications back in space. “Looking beyond the current crisis, there is also the potential to scale the design for space applications by using it to implement and control artificial atmospheres, for example in space greenhouses and artificial habitats for future planetary explorations,” he said.