Device non-invasively monitors for air leaks
Coltraco Ultrasonics says it developed its Portascanner COVID-19 hand-held device as a means of non-invasive monitoring for air leaks within clinical spaces, and especially ICUs, during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic last Summer.
The company, which has a background in naval ultrasonic technologies for monitoring watertightness in warships and submarines, developed the device working with British physicists using a Government-provided Emergency COVID-19 Technology grant last June. It explained: “The Portascanner COVID-19 is based on the technology of our award-winning, globally recognised Portascanner WATERTIGHT, an ultrasonic watertight integrity monitor used by our Royal Navy, re-designed specifically. It aims to reduce the spread of airborne disease by inspecting rooms for any leakage, and establishing the pressurised airflow rates that, unless identified, can place staff and patients at risk."
Coltraco Ultrasonics says a December 2020 study on COVID-19 and air contamination indicated that 56% of air samples taken from hospital hallways, and 24% from hospital bathrooms, had high levels of coronavirus (JAMA Network Open). Samples from ICU rooms were more than twice as likely to be positive, at a rate of 25.2%, compared with 10.7% for non-ICU rooms. It explained: “We realised we could contribute to the prevention of the spread of airborne pathogens, and thereby significantly reduce the contamination between wards, which also includes harmful substances such as bacteria, gases, and chemicals etc. In our research we have been able to highly accurately measure holes as small as 0.5 mm in diameter, almost invisible to the naked eye.
“Our hand-held Portascanner COVID-19 allows healthcare and pharmaceutical personnel, with minimal training, to locate and then quantify the leaks in hospital wards, cleanrooms, and sterilisation departments. They can calculate the airflow rate through these leaks, generating an air permeability value for an entire room/ward, and compare this against the required value for pressurisation. Quantifying the extent of the leak, or the air permeability rate, is crucial to ensuring positive/negative pressurisation.
“During COVID-19, “the company continued, “maintenance of the wards has never been more important, and this new device significantly improves air quality, and saves considerable time and resources in preventing fan pressurisation equipment from being installed within an unsuitable room. The downtime required for existing test procedures is simply not feasible given the resulting disruption to treatment.”
According to BSRIA, the air permeability of a negatively pressurised isolation ward must not exceed 2.5m³ /(h-m²) at a reference pressure of 50 Pascals. It is this value that is used in the reporting feature of the Portascanner COVID-19.
Coltraco Ultrasonics said: “The user can provide evidence of the maintenance programme, through the camera feature, and, ‘with the tap of a finger’, export a test report, all in one small portable instrument. Each leak is therefore marked and quantified in terms of the air flow rate and its contribution to the total air permeability. This is then calculated and compared to the threshold value, while the cross-sectional area of the leak is also recorded. “No third party is required, and all the user needs do is a quick test, scanning any possible leak sites with the receiver, while the generator is directed at the structure from the opposite side. Any peaks in the received intensity should be marked as a leak for potential investigation, and remedial measures undertaken if necessary. A full test is then carried out to decipher the leak size. Sufficient airtightness is required to facilitate good ventilation and filtration practices, so ‘safe working’ conditions be achieved. This simple instrument can be used regularly by in-house maintenance teams when required, with no disruption, enabling leaks to be detected and remedied as they occur.”