By Lê Hương & Hồng Vân
A summer approaches, and the weather hots up, spare a thought for those fighting COVID-19 on the frontline.
Images and videos have circulated of health workers wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPM) often overwhelmed by the soaring temperatures.
In the northern provinces of Bắc Giang and Bắc Ninh, hotspots of the latest wave of COVID-19, many volunteers are working under the hot sun.
Now a group of students and lecturers from Hanoi University of Science and Technology (HUST) have invented a solution to keep medical workers cool as they carry out their crucial missions.
The have created a special backpack that pumps ice water through protective suits in order to ensure people can work despite the hot weather.
Senior students from the School of Chemical Engineering [of the HUST] Nguyễn Thị Hương Hảo, Kiều Thị Thùy Linh and Phạm Đình Giỏi, with the help of Associate Professor Vũ Đình Tiến, designed and built the equipment.
“At that time, we were doing a research to make a cool helmet using a fan and ice water running system,” Hảo told Việt Nam News, “At the peak of the pandemic’s fourth wave, we thought that a cool vest would be more urgent to produce in order to ease the work of health staff at hospitals in the hot summer.”
|From left: Students Nguyễn Thị Hương Hảo, Phạm Đình Giỏi and Kiều Thị Thùy Linh test the water circulation system. VNS Photo Lê Hương|
Associate Professor Lã Thị Ngọc Anh, a lecturer from the School of Textile, Leather & Fashion helped design and tailor the clothing.
The cool vest consists of two parts: a vest and a back pack. The vest has a water pipe attached with a water container in the back pack. The 10 metre long water pipe runs throughout inside the vest, which helps cool the body of the wearer.
The back pack includes a container for ice water, which connects with a pump. Some 300-400ml of water and 300 grams of ice are put in the container. The ice water will be pumped in the pipe to run through the vest to help maintain the wearer’s body temperature at 26-27oC for a few hours.
A mobile battery is used to power the pump and the whole produce weighs about 1kg.
|The whole kit weighs around 1kg. VNS Photo Lê Hương|
Hảo said the cool period may last even longer but to reach more effective purpose they add ice in the container every two hours.
Lecturer Anh said: “We have wasted no time to do our duties the same day that they asked for my support.
"We had to calculate the diameter of the pipe running inside the vest, the flexibility as well as the length of the pipe. After our first trial product, we have found out that the pipe should be 10-12m long. The bending curve should be in 8cm in length.
"The model product can offer cool temperatures for the wearer for up to four hours. We will carry out more research to improve the system.”
The total cost for such a vest is around VNĐ500,000 (US$22).
Current products available use dry ice and although offer lower temperatures, can be harmful to the wearer’s respiratory system, skin and lungs.
Lecturer Anh said the next step is to increase the time the ice stays frozen and to reduce the weight of the pack to make them more comfortable.
“We also want to attach the ice container at the back of the vest so that the whole cool kit will be worn inside the disposable isolation suit,” she said.
|Lecturer Lã Thị Ngọc Anh (first left) discusses the way to improve the vest with the team. VNS Photo Lê Hương|
Anh said the university’s lecturers and students have been pioneers in renovation movements as well as preventing and fighting against the pandemic.
“We have a good research foundation,” she said. “We have encouraged all students and lecturers to fulfil their responsibilities that the university has committed to, making good contributions to society and the development of the nation.”
According to Associate Professor Lê Đức Tùng, Secretary of the University's Youth Union, 50 of the first batch of cool vests designed by the team will be handed to health workers at hospitals in Hà Nội City, and provinces of Bắc Ninh and Bắc Giang as a gift.
When she learned about the cooling vest, nurse Trần Thị Phương, who works in Bắc Giang General Hospital said she felt relieved.
|Hảo tries in the whole kit with the disposable isolation suit. VNS Photo Lê Hương|
“In the past few weeks, we have received lots of support from the whole community and the State,” she said.
“We are doing our jobs in one of the pandemic centre in the north, but we are happy to be able to help out.
“This vest can be an excellent tool to cool us in summer heat. I don’t know how much it weighs. I hope it be light enough so that I can carry it through all the working hours.”
Phương said she wants to thank the lecturers and students from HUST, who are always smart and creative.
The cool vest can be also useful to people working in the heat or outside in hot weather, according to the team. VNS