Nihaal Adarsh, a student of KJ Somaiya College of Engineering, has devised a plug-and-use PPE kit ventilation device. The innovation could relieve the frontline workers from suffering the heat generated while wearing the kits for long durations
Healthcare professionals in the entire world have been serving the people in these deadly times of COVID. These frontline workers must wear a PPE kit and then come in contact with a diagnosed patient. These PPE kits are essentially are worn for roughly 7-12 hours a day by a doctor, depending on their seniority. The heat generated inside this PPE kit is high and creates a lot of uneasiness for the working doctors. Recently, an image of a doctor drenched in sweat after his daily work went viral on social media.
Targeting this problem of ventilation, Nihaal Singh Adarsh has come up with a solution. Being a 2nd-year graduate from KJ Somaiya College of Engineering, he has devised a product that could cool the PPE kits from inside by taking air from outside. His mother is a doctor by profession. She used to share her daily challenges of wearing a PPE kit. Inspired by that, Nihaal was motivated to work on the product.
Nihaal is a member of RIIDL, a start-up incubator group backed by the Department of Science and Technology. He says, “One of my colleagues, Hrithvik, assisted me with the 3D modelling and designing. After preparing a rough sketch, I used to approach him to check the feasibility of the final design. For arranging the grants and enhancing the user interaction, my colleague Shailee assisted me.” The idea was to develop a belt that would be as non-invasive as possible by not hampering the daily routine of any frontline workers wearing a PPE kit. Dassault Systems, Pune, approached him for the funding and product development of the initiative.
Nihaal shares that it was not an overnight innovation. While tested sketching various designs, Hrithvik worked on a mechanical model of the same. The initial prototype design had a pillow-like form that sucked the air through U-shaped air-inlets and had to be worn around the neck. But things changed after giving it for a trial to a doctor. He received the feedback to make it friendlier and smaller to be wearing around, something similar to a mobile pouch.
He redesigned and reduced the number of components to lower the cost with an increase in overall efficiency. It started with reworking the fan blades and battery capacity. Nihaal travelled from Pune to Mumbai to research the idea in the college labs. Following a continuous schedule of designing, testing, and making a better product with minimal cost, he relentlessly spent 21 nights in the lab.”We had worked on eleven prototypes before coming out with the twelfth one and the final version,” he says.
The belt can be attached to any PPE kit, whether for healthcare workers or any person wearing it for any other safety purposes like in paint industries. The belt is a plug-and-play kind of device and is a DIY product. The cost of one unit is just Rs. 5499. The device is a fan assembly run by a brushless motor. Through the Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) technology, the microcontrollers drive the motor. It consists of a lithium-ion battery which provides an output of 6-7 hours. The fan absorbs air from outside and pushes it through a polypropylene fibre membrane with a filtration efficiency of 99% and pushes it inside the PPE suit. So it maintains a positive pressure and maintains a constant airflow.
After switching on the device, it might take 2-3 minutes for the kit to get cooled, and it depends on the quality of air outside. For drier regions, it might take longer than for humid areas. The cooling will happen mainly near vertebrae, neck, and underarms, where the sweat is comparatively more.
Nihaal Adarsh has received government funding of INR 10 lakhs under the Nidhi PRAYAS scheme of the Department of Science and Technology. In addition, the KJ SIMSR has also funded INR 5 lakhs for the development. The team has released a batch of 25 units and received positive feedback. As per the demands, the team can ramp up the production to about 100 units a day. Nihaal shares, “It was a very breakdown moment for me after the first product. But, the support from my parents and by my friends, like Aditya, helped me sail through college examinations and assignments. I believe it is a collective effort of all of them, and I am happy that I could be able to provide a solution for all frontline workers.”