Respiration Inspiration

Can a new aerodynamics-inspired “sneezometer” that measures airflow with high speed and sensitivity offer a new tool for respiratory disease diagnostics?

David Birch, Senior Lecturer in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Surrey, UK and one of the Sneezometer’s creators, seems to think so. He tells us more.


The University of Surrey Centre for Aerodynamics and Environmental Flow has a reputation for building new instruments to measure things nobody has measured before. This time, it’s a special high-sensitivity spirometer known as a “sneezometer” (1). It was initially developed to address a tricky flow-measurement problem in aerodynamics, but a chance discussion with a health professional revealed the potential for the idea in medical care. At that point, Paul Nathan and I, along with our team, created an operational prototype in just three weeks! This project arose from Surrey’s specialized expertise in wind tunnel measurement and is a great example of how fundamental research can sometimes result in incredibly beneficial technologies in an entirely unpredictable way. In this case, a simple tool developed for fundamental turbulence research has evolved into a medical instrument that could reduce costs for healthcare providers and affect the lives of millions of people suffering from chronic health conditions.