UNIVERSITY of Newcastle students who have designed a respirator for healthcare workers that costs one tenth the price of commercial versions will have their creation tested by doctors next week.
Third year medical engineering student Isaac Gill said he and peers Phoebe Hollott and Nicholas Hough started designing the powered air-purifying respirator in August as part of a semester two assessment.
"Obviously there's a global pandemic that has really taken the world by storm and one of the biggest things is that most healthcare workers - and people outside of healthcare - don't have access to a lot of resources, because they're in such high demand there really are not enough supplies to accommodate everyone," said Mr Gill, 21, who is also studying mechanical engineering.
"We were tasked with making one that was readily available with all the things you would have on a day to day basis that are not necessarily medically related."
Mr Gill said the design comprised a hood covering the head and shoulders, with a plastic window at the front. A waist-mounted case takes air in and pumps it through a filter and up a tube into the hood. It pumps at least 170 litres of purified air through the hood every minute. He said it costs $300, compared to $3000 for commercial versions, but is just as effective.
"You can make it in your garage," he said. "We use drill batteries that you'd stick into your drill or torch, just fans you can buy off the shelf. The only thing - and it was something that was necessary obviously - is the filter, that has to be purchased, that's the only thing that's medically related at all, but almost everything else can be bought at Bunnings."
Mr Gill said the design provided more protection than N95 masks. "The doctors in the hospitals aren't protected well enough with their N95 masks, it means just that - 95 per cent of the particles are left out and 5 per cent get through so that's why a lot of the healthcare workers are getting ill," he said. "With ours, it takes out more than 99.95 per cent of the COVID so we're able to hopefully save some of the healthcare workers that are so needed right now from getting ill."
Mr Gill said the group would like to make a difference with their project and were looking at the steps to mass production. Doctors will test the design in simulation laboratories at John Hunter Hospital next week.
"They will be pretending the dummy is a COVID patient and will stick a tube down their throat so you're getting all the spitting and reactions you'd normally get, to replicate that. We also have an Intensive Care team coming to assess the product at the John Hunter as well."
The project features in UON's Art of Problem Solving 2020 virtual exhibition.
which showcases 15 engineering and computing projects from students.