The Raspberry Pi Zero is the newest ally of health institutions in the fight against covid-19, a disease caused by the new coronavirus. The small computer, which costs only US $ 5, is being tested in Colombia on a new respirator project, essential equipment for the treatment of critically ill patients.
According to the BBC, respirators equipped with the Raspberry Pi Zero are undergoing tests at the University Hospital of the Pontifical Universidad Xavieran and Universidad Los Andes, institutions located in Bogotá.
In the project created by robotics engineer Marcos Mascorro, the mini PC with a 1 GHz processor and 512 MB of RAM memory runs the software that regulates air pressure and flow, opening and closing valves. The program is also able to analyze the patient’s reactions and determine whether he needs partial or total respiratory assistance.
In addition to the cheaper version of the computer, the equipment uses parts such as valves and pipes sold in plumbing and auto supply stores. The engineer had the collaboration of health professionals to improve the low-cost project.
Tests in progress
The Raspberry Pi Zero controlled respirator will work for five straight days, ventilating artificial lungs. Then it will be tested on animals and, until the beginning of May, on humans.
If successful, the expectation is to mass produce the equipment for use in hospitals by the middle of the year. The Mascorro project has even been made available in open code, allowing anyone to use and modify it.
To meet the demand for this and other projects, the CEO and founder of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, Eben Upton, revealed that the company will increase production of the Zero version, from 192 thousand units in the first quarter to 250 thousand from now on.