CCARPH Supports AIC Innovation Towards Low-cost Ventilator in the Fight Against COVID-19

By: Jeremiah Morales

Engr. Cabacungan along with his ventilator prototype

The Ateneo Innovation Center (AIC) has crafted an ingenious solution to help address the country’s lack of medical ventilators in the fight against COVID-19. Engr. Paul Cabacungan (AIC Operations Manager; CCARPH Scientist) took the lead in fabricating a prototype version of a medical ventilator in which he sourced out his materials from their previous invention, the Mobile Solar-powered Clean Water System.  

Engr. Cabacungan explained how his invention works:

“Our prototype used materials available from our old clean water system and whatever we can find at home. Access to appropriate components is restricted by ECQ. 

We used an air compressor (used in aquariums) to blow air into the particulate and activated carbon filter (used in clean water system). Air goes [in]to the ambu bag that functions as an automatic and adjustable air pressure release valve if pressure goes beyond 40 cm-water. 

We used the pressure gauge (from aneroid sphygmomanometer) to indicate air pressure. Problem: reading is in mmHg so it still has to be converted to cmH2O. The flow meter (used in oxygen tank) indicates air flow rate (in liter per minute) which can be converted to the air volume delivered to the patient. Better if there is a sensor that will show the graphical user interface, but we have no access to that at the moment. 

Then, air goes to an improvised bubble humidifier before it goes to the inspiratory limb with one-way valve. The expiratory limb is connected to the activated carbon, UV lamp, and ends in a soapy water to kill the virus before going to the environment. Dr. Vince Faustino suggested that we use a hepa filter instead of UV, but we cannot find one.

We programmed the system to maintain a base pressure of 12 cmH2O and peak pressure of 30 cmH2O, as recommended by Dr. Vince Faustino.  

We put everything in a wheeler for portability, weighing approximately 25 kilos.”

Daniel, son of Engr. Cabacungan, assisted his father in fabricating this ventilator prototype

He further added that the “components used will make the system easier to replicate”. However, this invention would have a long way to go before it can be deployed to hospitals in need. Materials analysis to assess components’ medical grade acceptability and safety is still needed, along with the system’s air quality and effectiveness of air treatment. 

Currently, there is a possibility of extending this research with funding from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), with the assistance of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD), and the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (PCIERRD).

This low-cost ventilator is currently funded by the Social Well-being Project of Dr. Emma Porio (CCARPH Project Leader), with substantive inputs from Dr. Greg Tangonan (AIC Research Director), Engr. Toto Oppus (AIC Director), Dr. Fabian Dayrit (CCARPH Advisor; ICP President; NAST Academician). 

The ventilator is part of the AIC-CCARPH’s disaster resilience technologies (Work Package 3) outputs in addressing COVID-19. You may visit this link to know more about the Ateneo Innovation Center.

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