MIT Engineers Develop a Cheap Ventilator for COVID-19 Treatment

The coronavirus (COVID-19) has hit 177 countries and territories as of now and is spreading rapidly. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to worsen, medical centers in most countries have started running short of vital medical supplies like ventilators, masks, gloves, and disinfectants.
Now a team of creative MIT engineers have come to the rescue and has developed a cheap and opensource ventilator machine.

A shortage of ventilators will put lives at risk, so health specialists around the world are doing everything they can to produce more of them. A mechanical ventilator is a machine that’s used to support patients with severe respiratory conditions that impact the lungs, including pneumonia. Ventilators can keep patients breathing when they no longer can on their own, and they can cost around $30,000 each.

A patient may need a ventilator for weeks. Popular automobile manufacturers in USA are offering to help build more of the machines. In the meantime, a team of MIT engineers and scientists have come to the rescue and has developed an open-source ventilator called the MIT E-Vent that could get regulatory authorization from FDA (Food & Drug Administration) soon.

E-Vent Machine
The new device fits around an Ambu bag (blue), which hospitals already have on hand in abundance. Designed to be squeezed by hand, instead they are squeezed by mechanical paddles (center) driven by a small motor. This directs air through a tube which is placed in the patient’s airway, Image Courtesy of MIT

The E-Vent is based on a project that started by a team of MIT students almost 10 years ago as a part of the MIT class 2.75 (Medical Device Design). Back then, students working in consultation with local physicians designed this simple ventilator, that costs no more than $100 USD. This was a manual ventilator that personnel would need to operate by hand. The students published a paper about their design of these ventilators.

Now, that ventilators are in high demand a new team of engineers has resumed the project at a highly accelerated pace. The current team didn’t just revive the existing design and call it a day, though. They made reforms to ensure the device would be easy to manufacture and operate, and they developed a new metal frame for enhanced durability.

The ventilators developed by MIT are very cheap as compared to the ventilator machines in use today. The German federal government also held a hackathon called #WirvsVirus (“We against the virus”) where 42,000 people met to find solutions to challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aimal Khan is the founder & CEO of Engineering Passion. He is an engineer and has obtained his bachelor's degree in energy engineering from Kandahar University.