The McLaren Formula 1 team is helping develop protective equipment for frontline NHS workers in a matter of days to aid the coronavirus relief effort.

The parent company of the McLaren F1 team – McLaren Group – is using their Automotive and Applied technologies departments to work alongside partners at the University of Southampton and Kemp Sails to develop protective equipment for healthcare staff tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Engineers and medical staff are testing a prototype of a personal respirator device, which if successful, will help solve the limitations of existing equipment doctors and nurses are currently wearing amid fears of frontline workers being left exposed to coronavirus due to a shortage of suitable medical facemasks.

“The early stage prototype developed in Southampton consists of a fabric hood which covers the wearer’s head, integrated with a plastic visor to protect their face,” a Southampton University statement read.

“A small portable unit delivers clean air through a HEPA filter to the wearer from a battery powered fan pack mounted on a belt.

“The prototype uses off-the-shelf components, and has received positive feedback from doctors, nurses and patients in initial demonstrations at the hospital. Doctors and nurses will be testing the prototypes on the wards this week in the course of their day-to-day work, to provide comfort and usability feedback.

“If the tests are successful and the prototype obtains the necessary safety certifications, the concept will be published open-source so it would be available to other manufacturers and organisations around the world. The engineers on the team will also investigate developing simpler prototypes using only components available in developing countries.”

Paul Elkington, Professor of Respiratory Medicine at the University of Southampton added: "We must minimise the risk of infection for medical staff and stop them getting sick at the peak of the pandemic, so that they can care for others.

“The engineering team have rapidly developed something simple yet effective.
The HEPA filtered air removes 99.95% of particulate matter and the face mask protects from splashes, and so we think this will reduce the risk of infection.”

It follows Monday’s news that Mercedes has built a new breathing aid alongside engineers at University College London and clinicians at ULCH in under a week, and hope to begin mass production of the device beginning next week at its High Performance Powertrains department in Brixworth.

All seven British based F1 teams are responding to a call from the UK government to help develop and manufacture life-saving medical devices including ventilators as part of the nationwide VentilatorChallengeUK relief effort.

FEATURE: How F1 is joining the fight against coronavirus