Rice University develops low-cost ventilators to help fight coronavirus

HOUSTON – Rice University has created a new and inexpensive tool that could soon be available and on the front-lines in the fight against coronavirus.

"We've created a low-cost ventilator solution that we hope to release to the world for people," professor Matthew Wettergreen said.

The prototype is already in the works at the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen at Rice University, as part of a senior design course project. The ventilators will cost less than $300 to develop.

However, the efforts to get the product out to the public have quick ramped up over the last week as the world faced a medical supply shortage because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"The inexpensive part of that makes it a very good thing compared to your multi-thousand dollar ventilators or some of the other ones you've seen on the internet," said Danny Blacker, an engineering design supervisor at Rice University.

With much-needed medical equipment running out for medical staff, this device could be a game-changer, Rice University executive director Amy Kavalewitz said.

"What our device could possibly do is free up larger ventilators for more critical patients," she said.

Thomas Herring, an electrical and computational engineering student, said it has been exciting to use the skills he had learned at Rice to build a product that could potentially save lives.

As for what's next, the design team, which consists of students, faculty, and a company called Metric Technologies, is finalizing a prototype by the end of the month.

The team is working closely with physicians and others to make sure they hit all the required milestones to put the product out to the public.

“We are going to put it together in a way that others can produce after we’ve responsibly tested it, and we feel confident that we can put it out there for others to make,” said Amy Kavalewitz, an executive director at Rice University.

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