© Cornelius Bierer

Germs? Blown away: Disin­fec­tion device for inhaler

Cystic fibrosis is a serious lung disease. Inhala­tion alle­vi­ates the symp­toms of sufferers, but only if their medica­tion nebu­lizers are completely dry and there­fore germ-free. To help with this, Detherma has devel­oped a new type of disin­fec­tion device featuring a powerful compact fan that distrib­utes a large volume of hot air.

Around 8,000 people in Germany and over 54,000 across Europe have cystic fibrosis, a hered­i­tary disease that primarily affects the lungs. Inhala­tion brings the medica­tion directly to where it is needed and is there­fore one of the most impor­tant treat­ment methods for those affected. However, the devices used for this purpose, known as nebu­lizers or inhalers, can also pose a health risk.

If they them­selves become a source of germs, they trans­port viruses or bacteria directly into the already weak­ened lungs. Hygienic cleaning of inhalers is there­fore an impor­tant part of cystic fibrosis therapy – and of everyday life for people with the disease. “Having time for friends, family, and leisure is also a form of inclu­sion and health. Unfor­tu­nately, this is some­thing that many sufferers miss out on,” explains Michael Nord­mann, co-founder of Detherma GmbH.

About cystic fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is a congen­ital meta­bolic disease and is consid­ered rare. A change in the cystic fibrosis gene causes an imbal­ance in the salt-water balance of the cells. As a result, the mucus that covers the cells becomes thick and clogs organs in the body of those affected. The lungs are usually affected, which is why inhala­tion with inhalettes is often used as a therapy. This is because the inhalers trans­port the medica­tion directly into the lungs.

Source: Muko­viszi­dose e.V.

Until 2018, Michael Nord­mann himself had no points of contact with cystic fibrosis or inhalers. That is, until he met Peter Krüger through his previous work for an injec­tion molding company. Krüger had devel­oped and patented a disin­fec­tion device for stain­less steel inhalers. Nord­mann was enthu­si­astic: “He wanted to develop the device into a less expen­sive plastic one. I found the concept and the idea behind the product convincing.” So convincing that he became an investor and, together with Krüger and three other part­ners, founded Detherma GmbH as an inde­pen­dent company for the sale of disin­fec­tion devices. But what makes the device so inno­v­a­tive?

Michael Nord­mann found the concept of the disin­fec­tion device so convincing that he became an investor and co-founder.

Germ-free through drying

There are several disin­fec­tion devices on the market that disin­fect inhalers without germs. The problem is that they do this with water vapor and the inhalers there­fore come out of the disin­fec­tion process wet. When they are dried in the ambient air or with a cloth, water droplets remain on the freshly cleaned inhalers. This can lead to the build-up of dangerous, humidity-loving germs. So, for the health of cystic fibrosis sufferers, a device is needed that blows away all the residual water imme­di­ately after cleaning.

The compact fan is powerful, reli­able and quiet. (Photo | Cornelius Bierer)

This is the inno­va­tion behind the Detherma device: The nebu­lizer comes out germ-free and dry, ready for its next use, after just 55 minutes. For the drying process, a compact fan draws in fresh air through a HEPA filter and conveysthe air into the disin­fec­tion and drying basket. Compact fans from ebm-papst already performed this job in Peter Krüger’s patented stain­less steel appli­ance. So, when the new plastic product was being devel­oped, it was clear that the same fans would be needed again.

However, despite their expe­ri­ence with the stain­less steel device, a few chal­lenges awaited the devel­opers and the compact fan they were looking for: “The fan has to be very powerful so that it can draw in enough air through the HEPA filter. But because the disin­fec­tion device is used in the patient’s home, it should still be very quiet, virtu­ally inaudible. And because it is used several times a day, the fan must also work reli­ably over the long term,” explains Michael Nord­mann.

Small damper, big effect

Detherma sent a proto­type of the plastic disin­fec­tion device to ebm-papst in St. Georgen. Richard Kien­zler, Sales Engi­neer at ebm-papst, suggested using the 422J axial fan due to its small instal­la­tion dimen­sions: “It’s very powerful, so it can still deliver the required air flow at a low speed – and there­fore quietly. This is due to the blade geom­etry, which gener­ates the high pres­sure increase and air flow.” Detherma was satis­fied with the initial measure­ments and installed a larger number of fans in disin­fec­tion devices.

However, the noise level was suddenly no longer accept­able in some of them. Some – suppos­edly iden­tical – devices were loud, while others were not. “ebm-papst then quickly carried out tests in the labo­ra­tory that we couldn’t do ourselves,” says Nord­mann. Richard Kien­zler explains the result of the measure­ments: “No matter which fans we installed in a loud device, it always remained loud. And the quiet devices remained quiet, what­ever the fan model. So it had to be the housing.”

This small sili­cone damper prevents vibra­tions in the housing from causing annoying noises. (Photo | Cornelius Bierer)
Elec­trical func­tion tests are carried out after instal­la­tion. (Photo | Cornelius Bierer)

The matter was explained by the discovery that even tiny differ­ences in assembly led to the noise. So Detherma installed a sili­cone damper in the cover. “Of course as a start-up, it’s a huge bonus for us to be supported by the devel­opers at ebm-papst in this way. Even though we haven’t ordered thou­sands and thou­sands of prod­ucts,” says a delighted Michael Nord­mann.

Quality of life for those affected

Detherma is convinced of the impor­tance of the product. What is still missing is offi­cial approval as a prescrip­tion-only medical product in Germany – a process that may take some time. But Michael Nord­mann and his part­ners are in good spirits: “The feed­back from clinics, rehab facil­i­ties, and people with the disease has been very posi­tive. Many cystic fibrosis sufferers who use the disin­fec­tion device tell us that they have not had any lung infec­tions for a long time. That is, of course, exactly what we want to achieve.”

As a start-up, it’s a huge bonus for us to be supported by the devel­opers at ebm-papst in this way.

Michael Nord­mann, Co-founder Detherma GmbH

The disin­fec­tion device can also have a posi­tive effect on patients with COPD, a chronic lung disease, as some doctors have already reported. Cleaning inhalers using the Detherma device is very easy for these doctors and their patients. They simply need to put the nebu­lizer into the device, press the start button, and take it out 55 minutes later, clean and dry. More time for enjoying life – and health.

Required fields: Comment, Name & Mail (Mail will not be published). Please also take note of our Privacy protection.

Additional product information can be found here:

Compact fans

Highly efficient fan expertise