Olivia Reynolds

Olivia Reynolds

Middle School Third Place Winner: 2011 Engineering & Human Service - Relief from a Disaster Essay Contest
St. Pauls School for Girls
Olivia Reynolds
Negative Pressure Pump

Natural disasters, such as an earthquake, tornado, hurricane or flood can cause serious damage to humans. A building could topple over and falling debris could cause someone a deep wound. What does one use to speed up the healing process when a bandage is not quick enough? Sixty million patients have suffered because their wounds did not heal properly. Last year, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) student, Danielle Zurovick, came up with the solution to this problem using negative pressure or suction. The pressure pump already existed but it had many problems. Zurovick created a device to fit everyone’s needs. She called this device the negative pressure pump.

The negative pressure pump is used to advance the speed of healing up to five times faster. The negative pressure pump can hold its pressure on the wound longer, unlike the bandage, which cannot hold pressure at all. The bandage needs to be replaced often and sometimes painfully. The negative pressure pump can stay on for 3 to 5 days longer than the bandage. The problem with bandages is they need to be removed daily and they don’t heal the wound fast enough. The old pressure pump is too expensive, uses too much power, and requires a heavy battery. These kinds of pumps used to cost $100 to rent and weigh at least 10 pounds with the battery. Zurovick‘s pump only weighs half a pound and costs an affordable price of $3. It also uses no power so it saves energy. Some developing countries that do not have access to electricity would not be able to use the pump at all.

When manually squeezed, the pump of the negative pressure pump vacuums out bacteria to increase blood flow to the wound. This device was used after the tragic earthquake in Haiti and helped over hundreds of patients recover. Zurovick and a health team took 50 pumps to Haiti. The negative pressure pump has accordion like ridges with thin plastic tubes running out of the pump to drain the liquids. The cylinder-shaped negative pressure pump is made of a pump, plastic tubes, and a fitting that covers the wound. This device is human-powered and only takes one person to power it. It is squeezed to create suction to clean the wound. The affected area must have a bandage tightly wrapped around the wound. If it got an air leak, the pump would not work. Zurovick‘s inspiration for this device was the plunger, which also uses suction. Zurovick has upgraded the device to fit in one’s pocket and maintains a “more constant pressure”. She plans to take the newer device to Rwanda. Clinics in Rwanda are filled with people who have severe wounds. This device can be manufactured locally at any developing nation if they have a plastic molding company.

Engineers who may be involved in constructing this pump include a materials science engineer, biosystem engineer, environmental engineer or a chemical engineer. A materials science engineer might have contributed to developing this device because these engineers turn raw materials into something, in this case, plastic. The negative pressure pump is made entirely of plastic. The tubes and the pump, itself, are made of plastic. A biosystem engineer may have contributed data because they investigate ways to improve health and safety of the people. The negative pressure pump cleans out the bacteria from the wound making the blood flow. An environmental engineer may have added information on how to fix environmental problems and improve the wellbeing of humans. A chemical engineer may have added information for this device because, like material engineers, they turn raw materials into something. If we use the negative pressure pump instead of bandages, we will not only help the patients but also conserve natural resources (rubber, energy, and trees).

Zurovicks’s negative pressure pump is lightweight, inexpensive, speeds up healing, and does not use electricity because it is human-powered. This device is used to speed up the process of healing when it is squeezed. It vacuums out the bacteria thus increasing blood flow. Hospitals and clinics around the globe are using Zurovick’s negative pressure pump. Danielle Zurovick created the negative pressure pump to help wounds heal quicker and the device has helped over 5.5 million people in recent years.