Polish particle physicists work on a new type of mechanical ventilator

Polish scientists from AstroCeNT: Particle Astrophysics Science and Technology Centre in Warsaw are helping an international team of particle physicists in developing the Mechanical Ventilator Milano (MVM), which is entering the production phase and will help those who are no longer able to breath on their own due to COVID-19.

The MVM was invented and designed by an international team of particle physicists, mainly from Italy, Canada and the US. The researchers used the fact that gas systems and complex control systems used in particle physics are based on the same technologies that can be found in most ventilators.

In early May 2020, only six weeks after the start of work on the device, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that MVM had been approved for use on patients treated for COVID-19. This result was made possible in such a short period of time by the cooperation of laboratories, institutes, universities and companies and by the open sharing of skills and resources.

The MVM has a simple design, consists of few components, and the modular design allows for its parts to be easily replaced, making rapid mass production of the ventilator possible.

Dr Masayuki Wada from AstroCeNT coordinates the work of the group tasked with developing the ventilator’s software. In addition to detailed software testing, the Polish team is also responsible for the data analysis stemming from ventilator test modules developed in the process.

Dr. Leszek Roszkowski from AstroCeNT commented on the swift progress in the construction of the MVM, stating "I'm very pleased with the rapid and great success of the MVM project. At the same time, I am extremely proud of the fact that our relatively small team plays such a disproportionately important role in this remarkable project with the overwhelming participation of researchers from large and renowned scientific laboratories in Europe and America. I am very pleased that their work could bear pro publico bono fruit in such a short time and in such a previously unplanned manner, especially now, during such a difficult period of the COVID-19 pandemic”.

The idea to construct a new type of respirator was born within GADMC (Global Argon Dark Matter Collaboration), an international scientific team dedicated to the search for dark matter led by Cristiano Galbiati and the 2015 Nobel Prize winner Arthur McDonald from Queen's University (Canada), a 2015 Nobel Prize winner in Physics.

The team of scientists has received help from the private sector, with the Italian company Elemaster playing a key role, having provided the laboratory needed to build the first devices, developed the new ventilator’s electronic system, and coordinated the work of other companies involved in manufacturing the devices.

The advice of medical experts from Italy, Canada and the United States allowed the design of the device to take into account clinical requirements. Anaesthesiologists from the COVID-19 units in Lombardy, one of the regions most affected by the pandemic, played an important role by providing the guideline for the ventilator’s design. Detailed testing of the device was carried out at the San Gerardo Hospital in Monza, Italy.

The AstroCeNT: Science and Technology Centre for Particle Astrophysics was established in July 2018 thanks to a grant from the International Research Agencies programme implemented by the Foundation for Polish Science and co-financed by the European Union.

States around the world are trying to stock up on ventilators, wishing to take precautions in case there will be a second wave of coronavirus infections in the autumn. Hopefully, the MVM will turn out to be one of the new ventilator designs that will help to satisfy the drastically increased demand for the life-saving machine.