Engineers are using space tech to fight COVID-19

Engineers are using space tech to fight COVID-19

Xin Ning, Assistant Professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Penn State, has decided to use his knowledge of space tech to fight COVID-19. According to News-Medical. Net, his plans are to modify and deploy technologies used for monitoring the health of astronauts in space, and repurpose it to help countries fight the virus with 2 main projects in mind: A stretchable sensor, and a foldable field hospital.

Ning received a two-year $265,000 by the National Science Foundation (NSF) as part of the Early-concept Grants for Exploratory Research”, or EAGER, a high-risk, high reward funding portal for early-stage, potentially transformative research and development. Ning is eager to make it work, and use his space tech to fight COVID-19.

“Two years ago, I had the idea for an expandable chamber that could be deployed on the International Space Station with the ability to monitor astronaut health.” said Ning “When COVID-19 started to spread, I thought this idea could be useful on Earth.”

The first project is a stretchable sensor that can fit around a person’s chest and abdomen to monitor the patient’s breathing, coughing, and body temperature. The sensor comes with an antenna, allowing it to function without a battery or wire connection.

Flexible and foldable sensor technology will come in handy with Ning’s second endeavor; a foldable field hospital. Ning is trying to create a one-to-two-patient foldable hospital unit that, when folded, can fit into a large suitcase for easy transportation, using advanced methods for ease and speed of assembly. The field units would also be fitted with antennas that transmit power and monitor patients inside.

“We’re using origami concepts to develop this,” Ning said. “Origami is basically modular assembly that is repetitive and scalable. Once we have the one-to-two-patient unit, we can add on to expand the field hospital.”

As countries use what resources they can to fuel testing and treatment, more tools are needed to meet the demand, from telehealth to space tech to fight COVID-19. With the ability to build temporary, on-demand field hospitals and monitoring chambers equipped with sensors, the concept would take a lot of pressure off current healthcare systems. Hospital buildings can now be put aside for the most serious cases, while doctors use field hospitals to quickly triage patients. Perhaps in the future, they may even be used to deliver vaccines to rural and urban communities.