Portuguese consortium creates innovative protection device for medical care in pandemic

Equipment is a visor with a ventilation system

A consortium that brings together researchers from the University of Coimbra (UC) and the Polytechnic of Leiria and SETsa, Sociedade de Engenharia e Transformação SA, from the Iberomoldes Group, has developed innovative personal protection equipment (PPE), especially designed for the provision of care physicians in environments where there is an increased risk of biological contamination, effective in the context of a pandemic such as the current Covid-19.

The device, already with a patent application submitted to the National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI), was developed under the project “MASK4MC – Mask for Medical Care”, led by SETsa and financed by the European Regional Development Fund (FEDER), through the Portugal 2020 Competitiveness and Internationalization Operational Programme.

The great innovation of this equipment lies in its ability to significantly reduce, for the person using it, the «risk of inhaling contaminated droplets and aerosols that have been exhaled by another infected person who is in the vicinity. It is a visor with a ventilation system that creates an air curtain, in order to promote the aerodynamic sealing of the inhalation zone from the surrounding areas and prevents the visor from fogging (condensation due to breathing)", says Leonel de Jesus, the project coordinator.

This equipment is specially designed for health professionals who perform their activity, for extended periods, in environments where the risk of contagion is high, such as dentists.

«There are three modes of transmission by pathogens exhaled from an infected patient (by contact, by drops and by aerosols), the situation of close proximity between the upper airways of the dentist and his assistant in the exhalation zone of a patient, eventually infected and sitting in the office chair, can allow contamination through any of these ways», explains Manuel Gameiro da Silva, coordinator of the UC team.

This new equipment, clarifies the consortium, was designed to be used «in conjunction with a face mask, ensuring an increased level of protection and better comfort in thermal and visual terms, as the flow of the air curtain contributes to the supply of air new and fresh and for demisting the inner surface of the visor'.

Therefore, say the project's authors, complementary approaches were used in the product development process, «using numerical simulations of the flows, in which virtual models of the EPI and its user were used, and experimental tests carried out with thermal and acoustic dummies».

«In the design and construction of the prototypes, computer-aided design and rapid prototyping techniques by additive methods were used», they conclude.

At the University of Coimbra, the project involved the Association for the Development of Industrial Aerodynamics (ADAI) and the Faculty of Medicine (FMUC). The ADAI research team includes faculty and researchers from the Mechanical Engineering departments of UC and the Polytechnic of Leiria.


Author: Cristina Pinto – Press Office – University of Coimbra – Science Communication