“Members of the DarkSide experiment at the Gran Sasso National Laboratory in Italy have temporarily put their hunt for dark matter on hold in an attempt to stem the deadly tide of COVID-19. The 26-strong group of physicists from Europe and North America has designed a new, stripped-down mechanical ventilator that it hopes can be mass-produced quickly and cheaply using off-the-shelf components.”
And who is involved but Queen’s physics’ own Nobel laureate, Art McDonald!
“Heading up the effort on the other side of the Atlantic is Art McDonald of Queen’s University in Canada, who shared the 2015 Nobel Prize for Physics for the discovery of neutrino oscillations. McDonald says that he has been “mobilizing resources” from several Canadian particle and nuclear laboratories, including electronics expertise at TRIUMF and mechanical engineering skills from Chalk River Laboratories and SNOLAB. Together with Galbiati, he has also been drumming up support from Fermilab in the US and CERN in Switzerland.
“McDonald says that he has had “excellent feedback” on the MVM from medical experts, including those in a group at McGill University in Quebec who are overseeing ventilators in Canada. Although Italy has not yet given formal regulatory approval for the design, he says that informally, authorities have sent very encouraging signals (indeed, Galbiati says that they have granted special permits to re-open factories for the production of necessary items). McDonald is also hopeful that approval will be soon be given in Canada, having spoken to “authorities at the highest level” there.”
Actually, this is quite a touching story. The stories from northern Italy were excruciating. Gran Sasso is the home-away-from-home for some of the smartest physicists around, some of Italy’s brightest.
More recent version from The Princetonian (the organizer is a physics professor based at Princeton, Cristiano Galbiati). And here’s one from my hometown paper, the Kingston Whig Standard, focusing on Art.