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The new CPAP developed by UCL and Mercedes-AMG HPP (image: James Tye/UCL) The new CPAP developed by UCL and Mercedes-AMG HPP (image: James Tye/UCL)

The Mercedes Formula 1 team's entire powertrain production facility has been turned over to producing a breathing aid designed to keep patients suffering from COVID-19 out of intensive care.

Mercedes High Performance Powertrains, which normally produced the 1.6-litre turbo hybrid powerplants used in Formula 1, teamed up with London-based university UCL to develop and build the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device.

Having now undergone clinical trials at the University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and other hospitals, the UCL Ventura device has now gone into production at Mercedes HPP's Brixworth facility. Around 40 machines normally used to make pistons and turbochargers for the F1 power units are being used to produce around 1000 CPAP devices per day.

The UK government has placed an order for 10,000 of the units. At the same time, UCL has also made full details of the design and production methods available so that other firms around the world can produce them. They have been published on a research licensing website created by UCL Business to help share technology that can tackle COVID-19.

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The UCL Ventura devices are similar to those used in hospitals in Italy and China to aid COVID-19 patients with lung infections to breathe more easily, and are used in situations where oxygen alone is insufficient. According to UCL, reports in Italy show that around half of patients given CPAP have avoided the need for mechanical ventilation.

The UCL, UCLH and Mercedes-AMG HPP team began work on the project on Wednesday 18 March, and produced the first device within 100 hours. It has now been recommended for use by the required regulator.

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