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Engineering-Led Villanova Research Team Continues Important Work on Low-Cost Ventilator Initiative to Address Global Need

Assembled by Engineering Professor Dr. C. Nataraj, an interdisciplinary team of engineering faculty, industry professionals and graduate students from Engineering and Nursing are working with medical experts on the project.


VILLANOVA, Pa. – The current COVID-19 pandemic has brought into focus the global need for widely available and affordable medical technologies for emergency and non-emergency usage – including ventilators, which are essential in keeping severely ill coronavirus patients alive. While all nations have experienced sporadic shortages leading to arguably avoidable deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic, low-income countries have suffered disproportionately because the cost of advanced life-saving medical technologies remains out of reach.

In March, as the pandemic worsened both in the United States and around the world, Villanova University College of Engineering Professor C. Nataraj, PhD, assembled a team of fellow engineering faculty, industry professionals and graduate students from the College of Engineering and the M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing to work with medical experts from Geisinger Health System and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) to design, develop, test and validate a low-cost (< $800) ventilator to address the needs for these devices both domestically and worldwide. The goal was to design a device that was safe, robust, scalable (to produce in large numbers), and met the minimum performance requirements for the treatment of COVID-19 patients. The Fitzpatrick College of Nursing provided critical supplies needed for testing the designed prototype.

The ventilator team sought parts that were readily available in the supply chain (and using as few sophisticated components as possible) in an effort to speed assembly, thereby addressing the dire situation as quickly as possible.  A prototype of the device was tested at CHOP and completed in June. According to Dr. Nataraj, in keeping with the University’s Augustinian mission, the team plans to make the complete ventilator design open source. This would enable anyone to rapidly produce the devices with the same performance and reliability. There is a worldwide open source effort to develop these devices. The Villanova team is also seeking partnerships with international partners, including manufacturers, to produce larger quantities.

Dr. Nataraj notes that this project continues to evolve rapidly, and further updates will be made as details become available. The team is currently working to pursue Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA.


Villanova's ventilator initiative has gotten media coverage both locally and nationally. Below is an overview of the media coverage to date:



Dr. C. Nataraj, Moritz Professor of Engineered Systems, Mechanical Engineering, and director, Villanova Center for the Analytics of Dynamic Systems (VCADS)—team lead, control and modeling, certification, medical liaison; Dr. Alfonso Ortega, James R. Birle Professor of Energy Technology, Mechanical Engineering—fluid system and mechanical design; Dr. Garrett Clayton, associate professor, Mechanical Engineering, and director, Center for Nonlinear Dynamics & Control—control, sensing, system design; Christopher Townend, Mechanical Engineering lab manager—design, fabrication; Dr. Frank Ferrese ’06 MSCpE, ’13 PhD, Naval Surface Warfare Center —control, modeling; Dr. Philip Asare, Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Bucknell University—computer user interface; Ken Salter, consultant—modeling and simulation; Dr. Patrice Tremoulet, Rowan University—human-machine interface; Dr. Foad Nazari, Research Scientist, VCADS—hazard operability analysis; Dr. G. F. Jones, College of Engineering – flow modeling;

Zack Nowosad—fabrication; Dr. Sridhar Santhanam, professor and chair, Mechanical Engineering—failure analysis; Graduate students: Carol Caceres, Felipe Valenzuela, Turki Haj Mohamad.


Dr. Mark Poler, Anesthesiologist, Geisinger Health System; Dr. Todd Kilbaugh, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing: Emily Hylton, Lucas Halliday, Shayla Davis.


Albert J Frattarola, Southco; Nicholas DiLeo, TDI Technologies, Inc.; John Hartner ’85 COE, ExOne.  


Keith Argue, assistant dean of external relations.