Mumbai: Necessity is the mother of invention, they say. For the student innovator Nihaal Singh Adarsh from Mumbai, his doctor mother’s necessity became the fount of inspiration for his invention. Named Cov-Tech, the compact and frugal innovation is a ventilation system for PPE kits, bringing much-needed relief for our healthcare workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 battle.
Cov-Tech: Promising a Totally Different and ‘Cool’ PPE Experience
A gratified Nihaal, a second-year student of K J Somaiya College of Engineering explains the experiential difference Cov-Tech makes to the Corona Warrior wearing the PPE: “Cov-Tech Ventilation System is like you are sitting under the fan even while you are inside the PPE suit. It takes the surrounding air, filters it and pushes it into the PPE suit. Normally, due to lack of ventilation, it is hot and humid within the PPE suit; our solution offers a way out of this uncomfortable experience, by creating a steady air flow inside.” The design of the ventilation system ensures a complete air seal from the PPE kit. It provides a breeze of fresh air to the user in a gap of just 100 seconds.
Mothered by a Mother’s Service
So how did Co-Tech take birth? Nihaal’s mother, Dr. Poonam Kaur Adarsh is a doctor who has been treating COVID-19 patients at Adarsh clinic, Pune, a clinic she herself runs. Every day after returning home, she would narrate the difficulty faced by those like her, who are having to wear PPE suits and get themselves drenched in sweat. How can I help her and others like her, the 19-year-old Nihaal thought.
The recognition of the problem led him to participate in a design challenge for COVID-related equipment, organized by Technological Business Incubator, Research Innovation Incubation Design Laboratory .
In Search of a User-Friendly Design: From The First Prototype to The Final Product
The design challenge led Nihaal to work on the first prototype. With guidance from Dr. Ulhas Kharul of National Chemical Laboratory, Pune, Nihaal was able to develop the first model in 20 days. Dr. Ulhas runs a start-up which does research on a membrane to filter air, with the aim of preventing spread of COVID-19. From here, Nihaal got the idea about what type of filter he should use, in order to achieve an optimum balance between filtration efficiency and air flow quality.
It helped that he got support from Somaiya Vidyavihar University’s RIIDL (Research Innovation Incubation Design Laboratory), supported by the National Science & Technology Entrepreneurship Development Board (NSTEDB), under the Department of Science & Technology, Government of India.
After more than 6 months of hard work the initial prototype emerged. It was neck-mounted, sucking in air through U-shaped air inlets, and had pillow-like structures which could be worn around the neck.
Nihaal gave it to Dr. Vinayak Mane of Pune for testing. “We wanted this prototype to be tested by some unbiased doctors and hence approached Dr. Vinayak Mane. He pointed out that wearing it around the neck will be a big discomfort for doctors and health care workers, due to the constant sound and vibration the device emitted. So, we discarded the prototype and started working on further designs.” Nihaal informs that they kept trying out new designs, with the aim of creating a prototype which does not obstruct the work of Health Care Workers in any way.
This aspiration for perfection led to the development of around 20 developmental prototypes and 11 ergonomic prototypes till the final product emerged. For this, he got help from Gaurang Shetty, Chief Innovation Catalyst at RIIDL and CEO of Dassault Systems, Pune. The state-of-the-art prototyping facility at Dassault Systems helped Nihaal develop prototypes effectively and at ease.
The Final Prototype: As Simple as a Belt
As per the final design, the product can be worn around the waist, just like a belt. It can be attached with the conventional PPE kits. This design serves two purposes:
Keeps the health workers well-ventilated, while preventing bodily discomfort
Keeps them safe from various fungal infections