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Engineering student from Mumbai designs a 'cool' PPE kit with ventilation for COVID warriors!

Nihaal Singh Adarsh from Mumbai's KJ Somaiya College of Engineering has created a 'Cov-Tech' ventilation belt for PPE kits.

A standard for all our medical COVID warriors and otherwise, the personal protective equipment (PPE) kits is an effective mantle guard against the virus yet its limitations can't be overlooked. For doctors and health teams, who are battling the pandemic on ground zero, the PPE suits are synonymous with excessive sweating, dehydration, fatigue and overall discomfort.

While the healthcare staff and frontline workers embraced these setbacks as byproducts of the pandemic, a second-year engineering student from Mumbai's KJ Somaiya disagreed. Nihaal Singh Adarsh, a 19-year-old boy from the Maximum City, has created a new Cov-Tech ventilation belt for PPE kits, to ensure our COVID superheroes are cool, in every sense of the word!

Finding a solution to PPE limitations

With the aim of providing an upgrade to the PPE kits, Nihaal has engineered a simple yet impactful technology, which he named 'Cov-Tech', to facilitate ventilation via the packed protection gear. "Cov-Tech Ventilation System is like you are sitting under the fan even while you are inside the PPE suit", Nihaal Singh explained. He further added that the compact design ensures a complete air seal from the PPE kit, and incubates fresh air for the user in just 100 seconds.

Moved by the struggles of his doctor-mother, the young innovator devised a belt-like aeration system, which paves the way for the surrounding air to enter the PPE. While sharing the details and the rationale of the invention, Nihaal pointed out that it was a solution to his mother, Dr, Poonam Kaur's daily struggles, in and out of a PPE suit. Dr. Kaur is a COVID doctor, treating patients at Adarsh Clinic in Pune.

"Every day after returning home, she would narrate the difficulty faced by those like her, who are having to wear PPE suits and get themselves drenched in sweat. How can I help her and others like her," the 19-year-old boy wondered. Nihaal then analysed the problem and the recognition led him to participate in a design challenge for COVID-related equipment, organized by Technological Business Incubator, Research Innovation Incubation Design Laboratory.

Here, Nihaal worked on the first prototype of the Cov-Tech with guidance from Dr Ulhas Kharul of National Chemical Laboratory, Pune. He was able to develop the primary model in 20 days. The filter used in this ventilation belt has been inspired by Dr Ulhas's research on a membrane to filter air, with the aim of preventing the spread of Covid-19. The filter strikes an optimum balance between filtration efficiency and airflow quality.

Nihaal later got support from Somaiya Vidyavihar University's Research Innovation Incubation Design Laboratory (RIIDL), supported by the National Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Development Board (NSTEDB), under the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India.

Necessity is the mother of invention

The first model was engineered to work around the neck, which was discarded after tests due to its constant discomfort, humming and vibrations near the ears. Nihaal kept trying new designs to ensure that the device does not obstruct the work of the Health Care Worker in any way. Well, as the adage goes, 'Where there is a will, there is a way', the final product emerged after around 20 developmental and 11 ergonomic prototypes!

The final design is a device that can be worn around the waist, just like a belt. This battery-operated aid can use an additional attachment around any conventional PPE kit. This technology serves two purposes - the first being, ventilation to prevent bodily discomfort and secondly, it keeps the user safe from various fungal infections. Since the ventilator is worn close to the body, high-quality components have been used and safety protection measures have also been taken care of, informs Nihaal. "The system comes with a lithium-ion battery which lasts for 6 to 8 hours."

A commercial run for Cov-Tech Ventilation System

Nihaal was helped by Ritwik Marathe, a second-year student of Design Engineering and his batchmate Sayli Bhavasar, in this project, and while initially, the plan was to simply alleviate his mother's pain, the scope of the project gradually stretched. "I never thought of going commercial initially. I thought of making it only on a small scale and giving it to the doctors I personally know. But later on, when we made it feasible, I realized that the problem is such a massive one, something our Health Care Workers face on a daily basis. That's when we thought of making a commercial plan so that it is available for everyone in need."

The Cov-Tech Ventilation System is currently being used in Sai Sneh hospital, Pune and Lotus Multi-Speciality Hospital, Pune. The first batch of the product is already out, with around 30-40 units which will be delivered as trial units to doctors and NGOs across the country. The next batch of around 100 units is also under production. Plans are underway to initiate commercial production in May-June this year.

The product costs Rs 5,499 per piece and is way cheaper than the competitive products, which cost around one lakh rupees, per piece. Successive efforts are afoot to further reduce the price.

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