2011-2012: In collaboration with four engineering students at Marquette University, this entrepreneurial student team designed and built a proof-of-concept device to detect acidosis or alkalosis in sleeping patients. Acidosis and alkalosis are conditions that result from increased acid or alkali in the blood and, if undetected and untreated, can result in comas, seizures, or even death. The project was motivated by a medical professional who desired a non-invasive detection system for patient use at night.
The cross-institutional team reviewed acidosis/alkalosis pathology, methods of detection, and current solutions on the market. The team also developed a set of customer needs through interviews and surveys as well as initial specifications for their proof-of-concept device. From multiple conceptual designs, the team selected pH detection in condensed breath via a breathing tube as the most promising approach. The Smith students focused on the breath collection and condensation unit and the Marquette students focused on the pH measurement and alert unit. Ultimately, the team combined their refined sub-systems into a single prototype and conducted prototype verification against their initial specifications.
The team’s final design demonstrates feasibility of a non-invasive acidosis/alkalosis detector. Next steps include further refinement of the design regarding size, duration, and automation, followed by patient testing to ensure full functionality and market readiness.