The discussion on BBC Radio with the Qatari team can be found here.
Translation into English is below:-
Could you give us an idea how this respirator works? We are trying to build a machine that supports the respiratory system either by helping the patient to breathe or by taking over breathing – it has two modes: the first is called Synap mode, which helps the patient to increase the surface area of the lung when breathing in, keeping the alveoli open when breathing out- this is very important for Covid 19 sufferers as the alveoli tend to contract when breathing out, so gas exchange doesn’t happen in the optimal way. In this mode, the patient breathes on their own but the machine just helps them to breathe better by putting their upper body under a degree of pressure that’s less than the surrounding air, which is called negative pressure s
What’s negative pressure exactly? How does it work ? The idea is that the patient will be in a box or vessel that covers them from the neck to the waist, and when air is drawn out of the box the pressure inside the box will be less than the air outside it, because of this difference in pressure, that helps the breathing to take place.
So does the air goes into the patient’s lungs without any effort on their part? It depends on which mode it’s in as I mentioned. There are two modes: one that supports the breathing, simply to keep the alveoli open so they don’t close when exhaling, but in the other mode, it’s as if the machine is doing all the breathing for the patient. In that mode the machine directly moves the breathing muscles and gets them to work.
What distinguishes this respiratosr from others already used in hospitals on Covid-19 patients ? The respirators now used in hospitals work by applying positive pressure which pumps air or a mix of oxygen and other gases into the lungs, either via a mask on the face or a tube passed through to the lungs. The problem with these is that they expose the patient to lots of undesirable side effects that could be dangerous, whether it’s the high pressure gases, or thes operation to insert the breathing tube into the lungs or the anaesthesia required to put the tube in. The respirator we are working on doesn’t cause any side effects as it works with your natural breathing process rather than against it and doesn’t require anything to be inserted in the body.
You are in a team of 3 female engineers, why is it an all woman team? First of all – it’s lovely but it’s not by coincidence, it’s because Qatar University doesn’t have mixing between the genders, the women’s department is separate from the men’s department so our year is all female students. At the same time we are very appreciative of the support we have got from the male lecturers and engineers at the university
You are building your own version of the respirator but there is an original model built by the Exovent charity in the UK. Can you explain more? The idea of the respirator isn’t new, but the team working on it in the UK is recreating it in a modern way. It’s a charity called Exovent which helps people to build their own versions of it around the world. We are workings with them, and it’s been really fruitful. The idea is we want to build a Qatari version of the respirator, by using only the resources we have here so we don’t have to get the basic parts from outside. This means it can be adapted according to the needs of the health institutions in the country.
Are there any parts in particular you can’t get in Qatar? Yes definitely there are some, as we don’t have companies making electrical parts here in Qatar; they are all imported. There are a very few places that sell them but not everything is readily available.
What’s the most difficult part about making this respirator? There are a few factors to take into consideration when building it, there are ways to control the pressure inside the respirator and to control the time etc; we are experimenting with different ways to achieve that.
Let’s assume I am patient who has breathing difficulties, how will I feel inside the respirator? All you have to do is lie down inside it, completely relax as it work the muscles of your respiratory system – the respirator is comfortable and lets the patient talk and eat normally.