Obstructive sleep apnea, is the more common form that occurs when throat muscles relax and make it hard to actually stop you from breathing.
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is a common treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. A CPAP machine uses a hose and mask or nosepiece to deliver constant and steady air pressure to push open the airways and maintain breathing. CPAP machines are effective and widely used.
However, they require a machine able to generate the needed air pressure, as well as the ability to regulate that pressure, humidity control (dry air all night can cause irritation) as well as power to run all night. They can be uncomfortable as well.
Airing was a crowdfunding campaign to bring to market a ‘new micro-CPAP’ machine. They raised nearly 2 million dollars on July 16, 2015.
The Airing is 2 inches big, disposable, and only costs 3 dollars. Supposedly.
And over 3 years later they still have nothing to show for it.
To be clear, this product appears to be a scam.
There are many reasons why this will not work. Some of these could be overcome with new innovations etc, but the team does not appear to be making progress.
There are many problems, let’s go over a few of them.
Airings cannot deliver the pressure needed
Airings will supposedly use static microblowers to generate the pressure needed to treat sleep apnea. Since these microblowers don’t have to turn a fan or blower, they use less energy and can be smaller. However the current technology just doesn’t support this use case.
Here is a current microblower available online. It is .7 inches by .7 inches. You can’t stuff ‘hundreds’ of these into a nose plug like Airings says they will.
Another commenter made this calculation.
A CPAP for moderate apnea delivers typically 10 cmH2O, a typical CPAP pressure, about 1 kPa; and a flow of 30 liters per minute. Microblowers are a real thing. I found one from MuRata but it would not work. It can achieve 1 L/min, which means they would need 30 of them, and each is about 3/4-inch. Cost is $19 each. Could there be one that is 30x as effective at the same price and size? No. There is not. Source
You also need to power those ‘microblowers’ which leads us to the next problem.
Airings cannot provide the battery power needed
CPAP machine have battery packs today. For example the Medistrom Pilot 12 CPAP Battery Backup Power Supply (for Respironics) provides backup power for the Respironics PR Series and DeVilbiss Intellipap, and can run these machines for 12 hours on a pressure setting of 10. The battery weighs 1.8 lbs. source
Imagine a 2 pound battery pack hanging from your nose. Not going to work. But let’s not just guess. Let’s do some math. Or better yet someone already did it here.
Let’s do more math. CPAP requires roughly 10 cm of water pressure = 0.01 Bar Sea level atmospheric pressure is roughly 1 bar. So the device has to pressurize to 1.01 Bar Now I’ve looked it up, and a typical CPAP machine moves 20 to 60 liters per minute. Let’s say 30 liters per minute = 1800 liters per hour
W = (1.007)(1.8)ln(1/1.007) = (1.81)*(-00698) = 0.0127 MJ = 3.53 Watt Hour
So assuming perfect efficiency (which never happens) you would still need 28.64 watt hours of battery, just to do the compression.
470 Wh/kg for Zinc-air battery implies this device requires a 60gm battery (2 oz to those of us of a certain age)
I looked up CPU fan efficiency (what they say they derived it from) and PEAK fan efficiency only approaches 25%
So, you’d really need an 8 oz battery hanging from your nose to make this work, not counting what you need to run the electronics, etc.
And even if you could get the battery power to weight to work, you would still need to provide humidity control to not dry out and crack your users nasal and throat passages.
Airings does not provide humidity control
No water reservoir. No humidity control. They hand wave this away in their FAQ saying ‘the nose is well adapted to breathing air etc’.
And if you solved the humidity problem, you can’t produce this type of technology at a disposable price.
Airings cannot deliver on the price
The current technologies of battery and blowers does not support a complex medical device that you can throw away after each use, for $3 a use. A micro blower alone, with no battery, housing, or electronics, costs $19. Source
A Duracell hearing aid battery costs $8. Of course a hearing aid battery has much different power, draw, and weight requirements, but a high power battery is not something that you can just throw away for cheap yet.
Others have caught onto this as well
Review from this site:
Airing no longer even pretends they’re working on their device. Their last report to Indiegogo backers was just under a year ago. It linked to a video that supposedly showed high-magnification photos of micro blowers at work. The video didn’t work. I went to Airing’s website only to discover that it gave no way to contact the company — no phone, address, email, or contact form. I emailed Airing through Indiegogo, asking about the non-working video. They never replied.
YouTube video pointing out the problems.
Forum posts pointing out the issues:
They could overcome these issues. But a few years in they have not, and probably will not.
All of the problems could be overcome with innovation and engineering. They could increase the energy density of their batteries. They could increase the efficiency of their blowers. They could reduce the size and weight of everything.
The problem is they presented this all potentially possible work as ‘done’. They sold to a market that is desperate. Desperate to sleep better. Desperate to get away from their clunky and uncomfortable masks and machines.
Of course they were careful in their language about how you were supporting ‘the development’ of this product, and how there are risks etc.
But I believe showing up with a photoshopped ‘prototype’ and promising something they have NO IDEA if they can deliver on, is unethical.
I have friends and family that live with sleep apnea, and when I find an organization that appears to be profiting from their pain I chose not to remain silent.