RAEng reviews engineering controls to fight Covid-19

Article by Adam Duckett

THE UK’s Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) has published a rapid review of engineering controls that could be used to prevent the spread of Covid-19 within hospitals.

It discusses engineering options including drainage, coatings, and decontamination technologies that could enhance existing strategies to control transmission of the disease.

“Engineering controls and solutions are vital to our response and can play a key role in creating a safe critical care environment where infection is well controlled,” said Hayaatun Sillem, CEO of RAEng.

Among the technologies discussed are taps that deliver water with soundwaves and microscopic bubbles that can improve hand hygiene; the use of positive air pressure attenuator drainage systems to manage pressure fluctuations in pipes that can create transmission routes for viruses between drainage pipework and habitable spaces; and laser UV decontamination technology being developed by M Squared Lasers that could offer more rapid disinfection of hospital equipment and PPE.

The academy notes that the eight-page review is not comprehensive and is part of the engineering community’s input to government intended to inform further discussion and develop advice. The report’s contributors include academy fellows, and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and Institute of Healthcare Engineering and Estate Management.

“By working closely with healthcare professionals, social scientists and others, engineers can make a major contribution to the infrastructure and systems on which society and the economy depend…and in helping to control infection as we exit from the lockdown,” Sillem said.

While IChemE did not contribute to the review, members of IChemE’s Covid-19 Response Team are supporting efforts to develop engineering controls. In a recent interview, IChemE members Zeb Ahmed and Nick Geary discussed how the group is working with developers of a barrier technology that would shield healthcare workers, and a process for decontaminating PPE so it does not have to be discarded after a single use.

Article by Adam Duckett

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