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Emergency ventilator designed at UNC could help fill critical need for equipment

Top health officials are warning a second wave could be coming and if there is an equipment shortage again, this design can be quickly and inexpensively produced.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — The coronavirus has been challenging in many ways, but equipment shortages around the world have made treating patients even more difficult. At one point in the pandemic, there was a dire need for more ventilators.

Driven by the urgent need for more equipment, a group of biomedical engineering students at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill used their unique knowledge to help design an emergency ventilator.

“We as biomedical engineers, we design for a purpose, but seldom is that purpose knocking on your door, and in this situation, it actually was,” said Dr. Yeuh Lee, an associate professor at UNC Chapel Hill who led the design.

The prototype does not look exactly like what is typically in a hospital, but the ventilator works and can help save lives.  Lee had already been working on it and with help from students, got it across the finish line, motivated by hospital workers facing a shortage of equipment.

“It all started, sort of, as a request from our pulmonologist and the people who are on the front lines with the ICU patients," said Lee.

It was a major accomplishment for students and faculty alike.

“We were lucky to have those students and UNC and NC State that were willing to put forth the effort and step up to contribute,” Lee said. 

He was in self-quarantine and had to be there virtually for some of the process.

Top health officials are warning a second wave could be coming and if there is an equipment shortage again, this design can be quickly and inexpensively produced. It's local work that will help the world through the coronavirus pandemic.

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