Researchers Help Create a New, Low-Cost Ventilator Powered by a 12V Car battery for COVID-19 Patients

May 20, 2020 by Stephanie Leonida

Researchers from Georgia Tech and Cranfield University combine forces to create a new, simple emergency ventilator with a 12V battery.

In a news release from late March, we saw how the alumni at Georgia Tech stepped up to create personal protective equipment (PPE) for distribution to hospitals in need worldwide during the coronavirus pandemic. Georgia Tech researchers and engineers did not stop there in the effort to help the public and healthcare professionals mitigate the effects of the virus. 

Researchers from the institution and others worldwide have come together to design, develop, and prototype a 12V-powered ventilator system that incorporates two bag-valve-masks (BVM) per ventilator.  


Georgia Tech’s Automated BVM Ventilator System

At the Manufacturing Related Disciplines Center at Georgia Tech, Associate Professor Shannon Yee led the research team in the creation of the BVM ventilators. Yee usually conducts his work and teaching at Georgia Tech’s George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering. With help from Professor Leon Williams, head of the Center for Competitive Creative Design at Cranfield University, Yee and colleagues ensured the rapid prototyping of the ventilators. 

While the ventilators were designed at Cranfield University in the United Kingdom, they were built and tested Georgia Tech in collaboration with Emory University. With Emory’s Office of Technology Transfer, Georgia Tech is pushing to move the design into manufacturing.


The Automated BVM ventilator.
The Automated BVM ventilator. Image courtesy of Georgia Tech


The simple, low-cost ventilator design is made from inexpensive metal stock and plastic gearing. Concerning its power supply, it utilizes standard wall adapters or 12-volt vehicle batteries. The ventilator was also purposefully designed so that it can be water-jet cut out of steel and assembled like an erector set. It is both modular, reconfigurable, and requires a small number of parts, which enables ease of manufacturing. 

While modeled on the resuscitation bags carried in ambulances, the new BMV ventilator is designed to act as a mechanical assist that allows the bag to be squeezed continuously for days without manual input rather than short periods. The design also incorporates two BVMs per ventilator so that two patients suffering from respiratory symptoms associated with COVID-19, can be treated at the same time instead of one only. 


Associate Professor Shannon Yee and colleagues testing the BVM ventilator
Associate Professor Shannon Yee and colleagues testing the BVM ventilator. Image courtesy of Georgia Tech 


Although each ventilator can serve two patients simultaneously, their airflow is separated to avoid cross-contamination. Respiratory needs for individual patients can be accounted for through Independent control of flow volumes. The ventilator is intended for emergency use until a conventional ventilator becomes available. 

In addition to work by Yee and Williams, Kyle Azevedo, a research engineer with the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), has been supporting quality control and test procedures for the device, collaborating with GTRI researchers Jonathan Holmes and Wiley Holcombe.

These devices can be mass-manufactured to produce quantities needed to help counteract ventilator shortages nationally or worldwide. 

“Leveraging the BVM resuscitators reduces the need for complex electronics, and most of the parts can be cut from flat stock or 3D printed. Actuation is via a simple DC motor and regulator, which are widely available,” Azevedo said.

During this period of the coronavirus pandemic, the increasing demand for ventilators is ever-growing. Researchers behind the new ventilator design are racing against time to get their engineering drawings out to manufacturers.