For the last three years, healthcare professionals from around the world have been tackling the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa – the most lethal to date. During this time, an issue has come to light: The impervious suits worn by health workers treating the sick have been found to be stifling and poorly adapted for work in tropical countries.
These difficult conditions have led to a desire to design a more comfortable, reusable suit at a reasonable cost, while offering complete protection for health workers.
Within this context, Sonceboz was appointed technical and industrial partner to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Geneva University Hospital (HUG) and the University of Geneva (UNIGE) to develop the project. Sonceboz's remit was to develop a motor equipped with a ventilation system to maintain a stable, low temperature inside the suit. The challenge was to create a motor that was robust, miniature, lightweight and waterproof, since the suit must be completely disinfected before it can be reused.
The fact that the suit is fully washable and reusable for three months enabled financial projections to be made, showing it to be around four times less expensive than those used to date. This also makes for easier storage and resupply.
The suit was presented during a meeting at the World Health Organization, and aroused real interest. The need for suitable personal protective equipment remains a major challenge, particularly in the fight against emerging infections such as Ebola.