Document Type




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BioMed Central

Source Publication

BioMedical Engineering OnLine

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doi: 10.1186/1475-925X-13-77; PubMed Central: PMCID 4074310



Respiratory disease accounts for three of the ten leading causes of death worldwide. Many of these diseases can be treated and diagnosed using a nebulizer. Nebulizers can also be used to safely and efficiently deliver vaccines. Unfortunately, commercially available nebulizers are not designed for use in regions of the world where lung disease is most prevalent: they are electricity-dependent, cost-prohibitive, and not built to be reliable in harsh operating conditions or under frequent use.

To overcome these limitations, the Human Powered Nebulizer compressor (HPN) was developed. The HPN does not require electricity; instead airflow is generated manually through a hand-crank or bicycle-style pedal system. A health care worker or other trained individual operates the device while the patient receives treatment.

This study demonstrates functional specifications of the HPN in comparison with a standard commercially available electric jet nebulizer compressor, the DeVilbiss Pulmo-Aide 5650D (Pulmo-Aide).


Pressure and flow characteristics were measured with a rotameter and pressure transducer, respectively. Volume nebulized by each compressor was determined by mass, and particle size distribution was determined via laser diffraction. The Hudson RCI Micro Mist nebulizer mouthpiece was used with both compressors.


The pressure and flow generated by the HPN and Pulmo-Aide were: 15.17 psi and 10.5 L/min; and 14.65 psi and 11.2 L/min, respectively. The volume of liquid delivered by each was equivalent, 1.097 ± 0.107 mL (mean ± s.e.m., n = 13) for the HPN and 1.092 ± 0.116 mL for the Pulmo-Aide. The average particle size was also equivalent, 5.38 ± 0.040 micrometers (mean ± s.e.m., n = 7) and 5.40 ± 0.025 micrometers, respectively.


Based on these characteristics, the HPN’s performance is equivalent to a popular commercially available electric nebulizer compressor. The findings presented in this paper, combined with the results of two published clinical studies, suggest that the HPN could serve as an important diagnostic and therapeutic tool in the fight against global respiratory health challenges including: tuberculosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, and lower respiratory infections.


Published version. BioMedical Engineering OnLine, Vol. 13, No. 77 (2014). DOI. © 2014 BioMed Central. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.