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Polisocial Award 2020: research through “Vulnerability and Innovation” in the post-covid19 era

The Polisocial Award 2020 theme is “Vulnerability and Innovation”, selected because of the new condition of the increasing extreme personal and collective vulnerability that knows no boundaries due to the spread of the covid19 pandemic. The projects that went past the first selection, in which the Mechanical Engineering Department is directly involved, are four. The research areas in which these projects are being developed go from mobility to the medical industry, while facing problems like respiratory failure due to the current health emergency and pregnancy in rural areas.

MAAC (Mobility-as-a-Community) is a project coordinated by Prof. Pierluigi Coppola from DMEC. The objective of the project MAAC is to improve accessibility to transportation and local welfare services for vulnerable groups living in rural regions. More in detail, MAAC aims to develop an integrated land-use transportation framework not only to design new sharing mobility services combined with the existing ones (mail, e-commerce delivery, student transportation) or to enhance access to digital networks, but also to identify local welfare hubs where to offer opportunities for smart working and distance learning to local rural communities. In fact, the major challenge this project has to face is how to scale down these initiatives in low-demand contexts. This will be solved on one hand, by improving both collective transportation supply and patronage through the implementation of a digital platform for sharing and also for co-producing mobility services; on the other hand, by integrating the design of such services with actions on the territory to identify accessible and connected locations that could be turned into places where services like healthcare, co-working, and smart learning can be offered (i.e. “welfare hubs”).

Coordinated by the Dipartimento di Elettronica Informazione e Bioingegneria, MakingMEV aims to suggest a practical realisation of a multiple Mechanical Emergency Ventilator (MEV) that allows over 10 severely dyspnoeic patients in need endotracheal intubation to be treated simultaneously, especially in situations when there are no Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds available. In particular, Prof. Roberto Viganò from DMEC is contributing to the project by designing the mechanical system aimed to stabilise the working pressure inside the ventilator. The project, carried out by Politecnico di Milano in collaboration with the hospital IRCCS Ca’ Granda Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, was conceived during the recent lockdown we all experienced due to the Covid-19 outbreak. For further information, visit the project website.

BAMBI (Balloon Against Maternal Bleeding) is coordinated by Prof. Maria Laura Costantino of the Department of Chemistry, Materials, and Chemical Engineering “Giulio Natta”. The project aims to develop a low-cost biomedical device that provides an effective and prompt solution in case of postpartum hemorrhage (PPH), especially in developing countries where for this very reason the mortality rate is 99%. The goal is to create an effective and safe device that can also be used by healthcare workers even in emergency facilities, such as field hospitals. This device will reduce the mother's need to go to the hospital and, in so doing, avoiding exposure to further risks during pandemics and when the access to hospitals is forbidden or could take too long.
In particular, Prof. Serena Graziosi of DMEC will take part in this project by contributing to the engineering of the device, from the creation of the digital model to the manufacturing process.

Finally, coordinated by the Dipartimento di Elettronica Informazione e Bioingegneria, SAFER is a project aimed at developing innovative technologies to treat hypoxemia in cases of emergency, especially in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMIC) where getting respiratory care is usually very hard. The goal of the project is to design a system prototype that can help patients suffering from moderate respiratory diseases easing their condition. Consequently, the use of this device will also help Intensive Care Units save their expensive and always more insufficient resources. Prof. Simone Cinquemani and Dr. Francesco Rosa from DMEC, along with their team, will design a device that integrates different subsystems to optimise the efficiency of air compression while making it sturdy and resilient to harsh environments. Furthermore, the team will also consider the chance to manufacture its spare parts via additive technologies, a process that could ease the usage of the device in LMIC.