MSU High Voltage Lab works to retrofit ventilators for COVID-19 response

Mississippi State University researchers are working to convert over 550 ventilators from battery power to AC power so they can be used in the state’s medical response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

MSU’s Paul B. Jacob High Voltage Laboratory was contacted by the  Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning to discuss converting the battery-powered ventilators, which are designed to fill temporary needs in the aftermath of emergencies like hurricanes. Once converted to AC power, which will allow for easier long-term use because they can be plugged into a wall, the ventilators will be sent to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.

“I am proud that our talented researchers can put their expertise to use as Mississippi continues the battle against COVID-19,” said MSU President Mark E. Keenum. “These ventilators will allow our state’s outstanding medical professionals to save more lives and provide needed care, and I appreciate the team at our High Voltage Lab working to put these to use as fast as possible. MSU stands ready to assist in this fight in any way we can.” 

David Wallace, manager of Mississippi State University’s Paul B. Jacob High Voltage Laboratory, demonstrates how a battery-powered ventilator can be converted to AC power. The lab is working to convert 550 ventilators to AC power so they can be used in the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by James Carskadon)

David Wallace, manager of the High Voltage Lab, said he and his colleagues designed modifications that allow the ventilators to run on AC power or battery power. Louisville-based Taylor Machine Works is assisting with sourcing parts for the ventilators and converting them.

“With the help of my graduate students, we were able to design the circuit that we needed and figure out what parts we needed,” Wallace said. “We have enough space in the lab and enough  manpower to bring everything together and get these assembled once all the parts are in place. Taylor Machine Works is capable of doing the same thing at their facility, so they’re going to take our design and convert approximately half of them.  Between the two of us, we can have these ready very quickly.”

The Paul B. Jacob High Voltage Laboratory is part of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the James Worth Bagley College of Engineering. The lab was constructed in 1977 and is the largest university operated high voltage laboratory in North America. For more information, visit www.ece.msstate.edu/high-voltage-lab.