By Lauren Sydoruk

A team of students and researchers from Curtin University has worked quickly to design and develop ventilator prototypes that could be used to help treat people affected by COVID-19.

The research team, with expertise across various fields including engineering, medicine, and mechatronics, is working closely with other organisations to develop emergency ventilator devices called SAVER (Simple Available Ventilators for Emergency Response). The multi-disciplinary team of technicians and engineering students from across five engineering disciplines is led by Dr Tejas Bhatelia from the Western Australian School of Mines: Minerals, Energy and Chemical Engineering.

Curtin University Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry said the team had worked tirelessly to produce the first prototype in less than a week, after recognising a potentially dire shortage of ventilators.

“Curtin is committed to solving real-world problems through innovative research and there is currently no bigger global issue than the COVID-19 pandemic. Although at this stage it seems to be relatively under control in Australia, many countries are still struggling and need all the help they can get and universities are in a very fortunate position in having the people, expertise and technology to be able to assist,” Professor Terry said.

“What this team has done is see a need and then proactively galvanise to try and find an innovative short-term solution that could help our health-care workers save lives during this unprecedented crisis.

“It’s just one example of how universities are ready and willing to harness their skill and expertise in times of crisis by being agile and collaborative in the search for solutions. I commend this dedicated team for its efforts.”

Curtin’s Dean of Engineering Professor Vishnu Pareek said the team’s work could help ease the possible shortage of ventilators which are proving vital to saving the lives of COVID-19 patients.

“It is incredible that by simply using commonly available equipment from laboratories such as mass flow controllers, pressure sensors and actuated valves, our team of researchers and students has developed a ventilator prototype called SAVER,” Professor Pareek said.

Curtin’s Head of School for Civil and Mechanical Engineering Associate Professor Jonathan Paxman applauded the team’s ingenuity, skills and dedication.

“It is a great example of our engineering students’ ability to undertake hands-on activities. It demonstrates their incredible skills to tackle practical engineering challenges, and their willingness to contribute to society in difficult times,” Associate Professor Paxman said.

“The development of a functional prototype within one week, shows not only exceptional core engineering skills, but also outstanding teamwork and practical problem solving.”

The team is now developing a new prototype ventilator and is seeking engagement from medical technicians, business, manufacturers and government bodies who can help fast track the mass production of emergency ventilators.