The newly developed TUT respirator has the potential to save many lives, especially in rural areas and disadvantaged communities, where access to live-saving technology is often limited.
The knowledge, skills and expertise of Tshwane University of Teechnology (TUT) researchers and academics were also put to work to contribute to the global need for sufficient equipment. In less than six weeks, a group of TUT lecturers, led by Drs Ron Aylward and Nico Steyn from the Department of Electrical Engineering, tasked by the acting Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, Prof Josiah Munda, developed the EABA (Emergency Assisted Breathing Apparatus). This low-cost automated resuscitator will go a long way in contributing to alleviate the impact of the virus on affected people in general, but especially vulnerable communities where adequate medical facilities are often unavailable, including rural areas.
EABA is an automated Bag-Mask-Valve (BVM) for application in emergency medicine to resuscitate patients during emergencies such as CPR. It can also be used for temporary ventilation when transporting a patient having breathing trouble, or when transferring a patient from the theatre to an ICU where a conventional ventilator is then connected to the patient.
A modular approach in the prototype design was followed, with minimal mechanical parts, and no specialized materials used. The benefits of this approach lies in the low maintenance and cost, as well and the ease of manufacturing the units.
The design was tested in a laboratory environment to comply with the range of 10 – 40+ breaths per minute, which most of the current emergency mechanical designs cannot deliver. With EABA, a clinician can finely adjust other important parameters such as the inspiration rate, expiration rate, and positive end-expiratory pressure.
The next phase of the project involves an upgrade i.e. the application of control valves and sensor technology with medically approved components. However, funding will have to be solicited. According to the researchers, the EABA initiative will contribute to the web of knowledge enhancement of quality education delivery and ventilator development. It is envisaged that the project will merge with the National Ventilator Initiative through a merSETA grant linked to the Technology Station in Electronics. Several bursaries have been secured for research and industrial project students, while talks with the NECSA ventilator team are ongoing.
From this design, a number of possible patents were identified and the researchers, together with the HoD of Electrical Engineering, Prof Olawale Popoola, have already started work on these.
For more information on the EABA, please contact Dr Ron Aylward on 082 871 9999.