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Aquarium air pumps help save babies

By Leonard Ho - Posted Jan 06, 2014 09:00 AM
Babies who suffer from respiratory difficulties need assistance breathing with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices. These medical devices are expensive, thus making life-saving equipment largely inaccessible in non-industrialized nations. Students from Rice University to rescue! Young engineers have cleverly developed a new type of CPAP device that costs less than 3% of traditional CPAPs ... by using aquarium air pumps!
Aquarium air pumps help save babies

These older model Hagen Maxima air pumps were used to literally save babies' lives.

This is a great feel-good story all the way around.

Rice University has tapped the unbridled creativity of young minds to come up with an affordable and simple alternative to an expensive medical device.  Instead of traditional, complicated and expensive $6000 CPAP machines, students thinking outside the proverbial box have engineered units that cost less than $200 by using cheap aquarium air pumps to supply the positive air pressure.  The bargain initial cost isn't the only benefit of using aquarium air pumps; These pumps are also easily serviced in the field without requiring expensive parts or trained technicians.

The air pressure supplied to babies is ingeniously regulated by bubbling air through a column of water in a sealed container (think: bubble counter).  The pressure is adjusted by simply changing the height of water within the container.  Clever!  Air flow meters (like those used to measure protein skimmer air flow) regulate and monitor the air supply to the infant patients.  You can't help but wonder if some of these Rice engineers are reefkeepers.

Rice University is currently field-testing affordable "bubble CPAPs" based on their students' design in rural hospitals at Malawi, Africa.  Malawi, coincidentally, is home to some of the world's most beautiful tropical cichilds.

[via NPR News]

Author: Leonard Ho
Location: Southern California

I'm a passionate aquarist of over 30 years, a coral reef lover, and the blog editor for Advanced Aquarist. While aquarium gadgets interest me, it's really livestock (especially fish), artistry of aquariums, and "method behind the madness" processes that captivate my attention.


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