As admitted COVID-19 patients at Stony Brook University Hospital (SBUH) continued to rise, the hospital’s Emergency Management Office quickly saw that much-need battery packs for Powered Air Purifying Respirators (PAPR) could be in short supply. A PAPR system consists of a hood and a powered air filter that hangs from the user’s belt. SBUH currently has three different PAPR systems, each of which has separate hoods and batteries that are not interchangeable between systems. While Emergency Management had a solid supply of non-rechargeable batteries to prepare for a potential shortage, they engaged the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences (CEAS) for some rechargeable alternatives.
A team in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering answered the call and moved swiftly to identify potential solutions. After looking for replacement rechargeable nickel metal hydride batteries and finding none, the team decided to try to replicate a mating connector for the battery pack. Their solutions included:
- 3D printed connector replacement and a USB charger solution to address the battery supply and charging issue.
- Three different 3D printed hose adaptors for each of the PAPR systems to enable each of the systems to use hoods from different manufacturers that were not initially compatible.
- Replacement battery pack utilizing the 3D printed connectors with a regulator circuit originally designed for the freshman lab class ESE123, where the students build a microcontroller-based clock project.
According to the SBUH Emergency Management Office, each of these solutions enabled interoperability between different pieces of equipment, addressing a key challenge the office faced with the well-stocked, but varying PAPR systems. The USB connection enables the use of commercial and cell phone batteries for charging.
The first priority was the USB cable adapter, for which materials were sourced, purchased and assembled by hand in the North Atlantic Industries Engineering Teaching Lab at Stony Brook, side-by-side with members of the Emergency Management team at Stony Brook Medicine. So far, they have delivered 70 adapter cables, currently being used at SBUH and Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, with a request for 50 more at Long Island Community Hospital (formerly Brookhaven Memorial Hospital).
The team also designed, 3D printed, assembled and delivered 140 breathing hose adapters for the three different PAPR systems. This helped resolve the supply shortages by allowing mixing and matching the different hose and motor systems.
The team is now in the process of designing and building 30 replacement battery packs using six readily available C cell batteries. This design replaces the original nickel metal hydride battery packs that are no longer available. This design incorporates a 5 volt switch mode regulator circuit designed for the freshman lab project with a positive temperature coefficient thermal fuse and a unique 3D printed connector in a water resistant case.
“Large-scale emergencies like the COVID-19 crisis call for creative, out-of-the-box thinking. Often we have to scale up and innovate with what we have available to us,” said Connie Kraft, Emergency Manager, SBUH Emergency Management Department. “The College of Engineering and Applied Sciences electrical engineering team stepped up and used their talents and skills to help us address a critical need, and left us in a much better position to protect our hospital staff and treat patients.”
“The Electrical and Computer Engineering faculty and staff worked tirelessly not only to design these solutions, but assemble them by hand in our labs under crisis timelines,” said Petar Djuric, Chair, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “It has been our privilege to lend our skills, expertise and facilities to support our heroic frontline clinicians and healthcare workers at Stony Brook University Hospital and medical centers throughout Long Island.”
CEAS Team (Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering)
David Westerfeld, Professor in Practice
Tony Olivo, Senior Technician
Ken Short, Professor
Dmitri Donetski, Associate Professor
Petar Djuric, Department Chair
Susan Nastro, Assistant to the Chair
Jeremy Nelson, Mechanical Engineering student
Stony Brook Medicine Team
Kevin O’Hara, SBUH Emergency Management Office
Lukasz Czerwonka, MD, Division of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery
Connie Kraft, SBUH Emergency Management Office, Coordinator-MARO Regional Training Center