Pandemic ventilation start-up here to stay
SBC Technology Limited may have been spurred into existence by the pandemic. But it is now looking forward to remaining for the long term.
During the COVID-19 outbreak, researchers at CityU noticed large quantities of virus-carrying aerosols being generated during treatment procedures for infected patients, such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Under the lead of Assistant Professor Dr Steven Wang, Department of Mechanical Engineering, the team successfully developed a fast-track negative pressure ventilation system that effectively blocks and filters viruses and is suitable for high-risk environments such as hospital wards and washrooms.
The resulting SBC start-up, comprising CityU PhD students and alumni, went on to receive invaluable support from CityU’s HK Tech 300 entrepreneurship programme, ranging from funding that eased the pressure on initial expenditure to guidance from the programme’s mentors and advisors. Meanwhile, team member Calvin Nip Chun added to his scientific background by undertaking the CityU MBA to master the knowledge and skills essential to operate a new business.
Research and development of the ventilation system went from strength to strength. In 2022, the innovation played an important role in fighting viruses during Hong Kong’s fifth COVID-19 wave. The same year, it was also awarded a Silver Medal at the Geneva International Exhibition of Inventions.
System benefits include the capabilities to thoroughly extract aerosols in an enclosed area within two minutes and to change the air at a rate that is higher than that of a negative pressure ward. SBC Chief Technical Officer Vivian Deng Wei explained, "Setting up the system with pipes and a PVC hood is simple and takes only about five minutes per hospital bed. As inexpensive PVC is used for the pipe frame, and only one central HEPA filtering system is required for each ward with three beds, the cost for setting up the system in a ward is as low as a few thousand US dollars, much lower than setting up a negative pressure ward. Moreover, the filter needs to be changed only once every six months.”
The team had to overcome challenges along the way. “Based on feedback from medical staff during the clinical trials, the team realised that the prototype system generated noises that might disturb patients. After several iterations, mufflers were installed that mitigated the sounds significantly,” Vivian and Calvin added.
Now, the impact of the pandemic on daily life is diminishing, the team is actively developing aerosol purifying systems for toilet bowls and anti-virus filters to help contain the spread of different viruses and infectious diseases. They also hope their work can be widely applied to benefit more people in Hong Kong and beyond.
「HK Tech 300」計劃初創團隊之一思康科技有限公司 (SBC)，在疫情期間留意到醫護人員為新冠患者進行心肺復甦等醫療程序時，空氣中會產生大量附帶病毒的氣溶膠物質，因此在城大機械工程學系助理教授Steven Wang博士的帶領下，成功開發有效阻隔及過濾病毒的「快速負壓通風隔離系統」，適用於醫院病房及洗手間等高危環境，更於去年獲得「2022日內瓦國際發明展」銀獎。
SBC團隊由城大博士生及校友組成，成員之一的理學碩士（能源及環境）兼機械工程系博士生鄧薇，以及工商管理碩士 (MBA) 聶俊，皆以自身所長為研發項目及應用作出貢獻。具有理科背景的聶俊表示，攻讀城大MBA是為了掌握營運初創所需的商業知識和技能，適逢「HK Tech 300」於2021年推出，透過基金為SBC 提供資助，以減輕初創成立的必要開銷，同時帶來研發經費及指導，對團隊是很大的鼓勵和支持。