Thanks to COVID-19, we have all heard of the ordeal of wearing PPE kits and multiple layers of suits, and how difficult it is to spend hours in the attire.
Pune-based Nihaal Singh Aadarsh was a first-hand witness to this. He watched his mother, Dr Poonam Kaur Aadarsh, return home every day, drenched in sweat. “When she’d speak to me about her ordeal, I sympathised, but thought it was part of the job. But as cases surged and she began spending more and more hours in the kit, her condition worsened,” Nihaal recalls.
Speaking with The Better India, the 19-year-old narrates, “As days passed, I realised that I could not sit and watch my mother suffer. I decided to find a solution for it.”
His effort to help his mother has further benefited other doctors, as he conceived an innovative Cov-Tech ventilation system, a plug and play device worn around the waist that assists air circulation inside the PPE kit, providing much-needed relief and comfort for users.
Cool air inside the PPE for eight hours
Nihaal, a student at K J Somaiya College of Engineering, Mumbai, says, “In the first try, I decided to install a fan to offer ventilation.”
He says the idea was to install the fan around the neck, for which he sketched a design, and to push the air inside the suit, allowing ventilation.
However, when he created the prototype and requested one Dr Vinayak Mane in Pune for trials, he received negative feedback. “The device was too noisy, and the vibrations made working difficult. I decided to put it around the waist instead,” he says.
Nihaal also took help from his friend Ritwik Marathe, a second-year student of Design Engineering. He applied for funding and received the NIDHI Prayas grant of Rs 10,00,000 from the Central government’s Department of Science and Technology (DST) for prototype development.
He developed the product with the help of Riidl (Research Innovation Incubation Design Laboratory), a not-for-profit organisation under Somaiya Trust, supported by multiple state and Central government science institutes. He named the startup Watt Technovations and further received the support of Rs 5,00,000 from the New Venture Investment Program, a joint initiative conducted by Riidl and K J Somaiya Institute of Management.
After designing 11 prototypes, Nihaal and Ritwik came up with a design that could easily fit around the waist. The device, mainly a fan powered by a brushless motor, is installed with a high-quality polypropylene fibre 3-layered filter. The fan is attached to the belt and fits at the lower back and sucks the outside air, filters it, and pushes it inside the PPE kit, ventilating the arms, neck, legs and back portion of the body.
The 750-gram device comes with a pouch with a lithium-ion battery and lasts up to 6-8 hours. The speed regulator allows the level of ventilation required. Nihaal has sold 25 devices so far and received orders for 100 more. Costing Rs 5,499, the device is being used by doctors at Sai Sneh Multi Speciality Hospital and Lotus Hospital, Pune.
‘A blessing for doctors’
Dr Sumeet Jagtap, a physician at Sai Sneh Hospital, says he came across the device through a close relative. “My relative learned about the device and gifted it to me in April 2021. It proved to be a blessing during peak summer months when the doctors became soaked in sweat,” he says.
Dr Sumeet says that using the device helped him stop sweating and provided comfort while working. “Staying inside the PPE kit for hours is suffocating and sometimes becomes unbearable. The sweating also leads to dehydration leading to tiredness and even causing unconsciousness among doctors. The device can help avoid such extreme conditions,” he adds.
Nihaal says that he is receiving orders across India. “Doctors are asking for trials and are interested in buying them. I am glad that I could help the fraternity in easing their work,” he adds.
Edited by Divya Sethu