The Grainger College of Engineering and Carle Health demonstrate working prototype of emergency ventilator for COVID-19 patients

Faculty in the News: Rashid Bashir, Dean, Grainger College of Engineering, W. W Grainger Chair, Bioengineering

A team led by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Grainger College of Engineering and Carle Health has produced a prototype emergency ventilator to help address the expected surge in the need for respiratory care associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Find out more about the prototype at

“Our team is living the Apollo 13 movie,” said William King, the overall project leader. “We have dropped everything else to work around the clock to help respond to the COVID-19 crisis.” King is a Professor of Mechanical Science and Engineering who holds appointments in The Grainger College of Engineering and the Carle Illinois College of Medicine.

“We have a team of brilliant and dedicated people that made something that actually works in less than one week. It’s very inspiring. We hope that we can engage even more people to work on the global response to COVID-19 as we continue to develop the prototype.”

The Illinois RapidVent, as the emergency ventilator is known, would plug into the oxygen source available in most hospital rooms or could plug into a tank of oxygen. The prototype has run for more than 75 hours, which is more than 125,000 breathing cycles. Over this time, the device delivered the amount of oxygen necessary and the pressure that patients would need when they are unable to breathe well enough on their own. So far, focused testing in the laboratory shows equivalent performance to commercial products—which are in very short supply.

Partners in the Illinois RapidVent project include faculty and researchers from across the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, its Grainger College of Engineering, its Siebel Center for Design, its Applied Research Institute, Carle Health, Tekmill, and Creative Thermal Solutions, Inc.

The team is collaborating with doctors and medical professionals on an ongoing basis to refine the design and make usability improvements—based on an evaluation of about a half-dozen existing products. A prototype was created using high-end additive manufacturing equipment and then tested at the University of Illinois and at Creative Thermal Solutions, a Champaign, Illinois-based company. Team members are also examining necessary approvals for using the emergency ventilator.

The next step will be identifying partners and resources to produce the Illinois RapidVent at scale.

“Healthcare providers must always adjust to address patient needs. We’re using resources available and seeking supplies. We recognize that we must also think differently to care for patients in the future. We believe bringing physicians, engineers and other partners together is critical to advancing care,” said Charles Dennis, MD, Carle Chief Medical Officer.

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