BY : Emily Brown

Engineers from Formula One engine manufacturer Mercedes have helped design a breathing aid for corona virus patients in just four days.

The Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device was developed by engineers at Mercedes HPP, engineers at University College London (UCL) and clinicians at UCL Hospital, who re-engineered the CPAP from an existing device used in Italian and Chinese hospitals.

Some corona virus patients need aids to help them breathe while being treated, and while not all cases are as serious, there currently aren’t enough CPAP devices in UK hospitals to cope with the surge in patients.

According to a statement from F1, the CPAP helps corona virus patients with serious lung infections to breathe and avoid having to use ‘invasive’ ventilators – breathing devices which involve tubes through the skin or mouth.

Reports from Italy, cited by UCL, indicate approximately 50% of patients given CPAP have avoided the need for invasive mechanical ventilation.

The team behind the CPAP device worked at UCL’s engineering hub to reverse-engineer the existing CPAP device to be mass-produced – a development which could help reduce the demand for breathing aids.

Clinical trials have begun at UCL and the device will soon be rolled out for wider use, as it has been approved by the NHS to help tackle corona virus.

Professor Tim Baker, of UCL’s Mechanical Engineering department, expressed his gratitude for the partnership with the Formula One engineers, and said he was thankful they were ‘able to reduce a process that could take years down to a matter of days.’

He continued:

From being given the brief, we worked all hours of the day, disassembling and analyzing an off-patent device. Using computer simulations, we improved the device further to create a state-of-the-art version suited to mass production.

We were privileged to be able to call on the capability of Formula 1 – a collaboration made possible by the close links between UCL Mechanical Engineering and HPP.