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Creating simple, accessible ventilators

Creating simple, accessible ventilators

[photo of Dr. Art McDonald at SNOLAB in 2015]
Bernard Clark

Professor Emeritus (Physics) and Nobel Laureate Art McDonald is leading a team of scientists at national laboratories TRIUMF, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, and SNOLAB to develop a medical ventilator using off-the-shelf parts.

The ventilator project began in Milan, at the Global Argon Dark Matter Collaboration, which supports researchers looking for dark matter. Their experience working with gas handling systems and complex control systems adapted well to the task of redesigning ventilators. There are now researchers at more than 50 labs in Italy, Canada, and the U.S., all working on the project.

Scaling up the production of existing ventilators to address the growing need for patients with COVID-19 has been problematic. Traditional ventilators have more than 1,000 active parts. The new simplified design, about the size of a toaster, has 20 to 30 off-the-shelf parts, making it easy to produce in bulk.

Canadian manufacturers are now in place to start production of the ventilator and the project has received philanthropic support from Donald Sobey, Com'57, and other donors.

Learn more about the international project, Mechanical Ventilator Milano, at http://mvm.care.


A multi-disciplinary Queen’s team made the semi-finals in an international competition to create and build ventilators using accessible components. Comprising Queen’s students and faculty and local health-care professionals, Team YGK Modular Ventilator created a prototype using Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machines, commonly used in the management of sleep apnea. The Code Life Ventilator Challenge was set by the Montreal General Hospital Foundation.

[cover image of the Queen's Alumni Review issue 2, 2020 featuring Ali Velshi, Artsci'94]