Michigan Coronavirus: MTU engineers build unit to increase longevity of PPE for healthcare workers

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HOUGHTON, Mich. (WJMN) – A collaboration of efforts at Michigan Technological University have come together to create a unit to increase the longevity of Personal Protection Equipment or PPE.

“It is a large scale heating unit where you can roll in racks of PPE and sanitize them using a low temperature heat soak procedure,” said Andrew Barnard, Ph.D, Director, Great Lakes Research Center, Michigan Tech. “The procedure takes about two hours and we estimate that it can sanitize up to about 5,000 units of PPE at at time.”

Courtesy: Andrew Barnard

The team received almost $33,000 of funding from the College of Engineering to build the unit to help make personal protective equipment for healthcare workers last longer. PPE includes lab coats, gowns, N95 masks, face shields, sleeves and other protective garments.

“Most of the PPE is meant to be single use but with the shortages they’ve been asked to start re-using so this we hope allows for some assemblence for sanitization in between re-uses,” said Barnard.

The unit was completed Wednesday morning, the National Guard picked it up and delivered it to their armory in Taylor, Michigan.

The National Guard is using their truck and trailer to haul the MTU Sanitizer to downstate Michigan.  Courtesy: Andrew Barnard

“We are in parallel working to find a medical hospital partner in downstate Michigan that can test this for us,” said Barnard. “So right now trying to get an emergency use authorization from the FDA to use the device as well as work with hospitals to show that it’s going to work. So I like to say that I’m a mechanical engineer, I’m not a virologist so I want a professional to tell us that it’s going to work. I can build the device put we need those professional partners to test it in a medical setting.”

If approved, the hope is to work with businesses to make as many of these as possible. Barnard says that with commercial businesses on board these units could be made in matter of a few days.

For more information from Michigan Technological University on the effort, click here.

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