Formula One Engineers Help Design Coronavirus Breathing Aid In Just Four Days

by : Emily Brown on :
Formula One Engineers Help Design Coronavirus Formula One Engineers Help Design Coronavirus Breathing Aid In Just Four DaysAid In Just Four DaysJames Tye/UCL

Engineers from Formula One engine manufacturer Mercedes have helped design a breathing aid for coronavirus patients in just four days. 

The Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device was developed by engineers at Mercedes HPP, engineers at University College London (UCL) and clinicians at UCL Hospital, who re-engineered the CPAP from an existing device used in Italian and Chinese hospitals.


Some coronavirus patients need aids to help them breathe while being treated, and while not all cases are as serious, there currently aren’t enough CPAP devices in UK hospitals to cope with the surge in patients.

Engineers create breathing aid for coronavirus patientsJames Tye/UCL

According to a statement from F1, the CPAP helps coronavirus patients with serious lung infections to breathe and avoid having to use ‘invasive’ ventilators – breathing devices which involve tubes through the skin or mouth.

Reports from Italy, cited by UCL, indicate approximately 50% of patients given CPAP have avoided the need for invasive mechanical ventilation.


The team behind the CPAP device worked at UCL’s engineering hub to reverse-engineer the existing CPAP device to be mass-produced – a development which could help reduce the demand for breathing aids.

Clinical trials have begun at UCL and the device will soon be rolled out for wider use, as it has been approved by the NHS to help tackle coronavirus.

F1 engineers create breathing aid for coronavirus patientsJames Tye/UCL

Professor Tim Baker, of UCL’s Mechanical Engineering department, expressed his gratitude for the partnership with the Formula One engineers, and said he was thankful they were ‘able to reduce a process that could take years down to a matter of days.’


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He continued:

From being given the brief, we worked all hours of the day, disassembling and analysing an off-patent device. Using computer simulations, we improved the device further to create a state-of-the-art version suited to mass production.

We were privileged to be able to call on the capability of Formula 1 – a collaboration made possible by the close links between UCL Mechanical Engineering and HPP.

F1 engineers create breathing aid for coronavirus patientsJames Tye/UCL

There were fewer than 100 hours between when the team first got together and the production of the first device.


Andy Cowell, Mercedes HPP’s Managing Director, commented on the achievement, saying:

The Formula 1 community has shown an impressive response to the call for support, coming together in the ‘Project Pitlane’ collective to support the national need at this time across a number of different projects.

We have been proud to put our resources at the service of UCL to deliver the CPAP project to the highest standards and in the fastest possible timeframe.

Following clinical trials, Mercedes and other F1 teams could produce up to 1,000 of the devices per day.

It’s okay to not panic. LADbible and UNILAD’s aim with our coronavirus campaign, Cutting Through, is to provide our community with facts and stories from the people who are either qualified to comment or have experienced first-hand the situation we’re facing. For more information from the World Health Organization on Coronavirus, click here.

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Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.

Topics: News, Coronavirus


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