MIT scientists create and share design for new easy, affordable ventilators

Easy, affordable ventilators design.

The coronavirus pandemic is quickly making us realize how unprepared our health systems are, the hard way. Everyone is scrambling trying to find solutions for equipment shortages. Beyond masks, ventilators are the other big one during this respiratory pandemic.

For those like me that suffer from asthma, a Coronavirus infection could be a death sentence. When asthmatics have an attack, their lungs stop functioning properly and their bronchi begin to narrow to the point of not allowing in any air. In such cases, a ventilator is necessary, along with a bronchodilator, to save the person’s life.

But what happens when the hospitals are full of non-asthmatics right now for respiratory illnesses that make them need ventilators just as urgently as I would in the event of an asthma attack? This is where the ventilator shortage becomes life-threatening.

A group of MIT scientists has stepped up with the design for an affordable emergency ventilator. It’s also easy to assemble using items that already exist around the hospital.

They’ve made their design available online so that anyone can easily replicate it. The total cost per one of these ventilators is $400-500. This may seem like a lot, until you realize that ventilators normally cost $5,000-50,000, with many requiring additional costs.

The ventilator, with the Ambu resuscitation bag at its center. Image courtesy: researchers
An Ambu resuscitation bag is central to the design. Photo: MIT researchers

The central component of the design is an Ambu resuscitation bag, which should be plentiful at hospitals. The design automates the process of pumping them with air without needing a person to handle it.

The team has decided to remain anonymous to avoid an avalanche of requests.