WO2011132043A1 - Liquid handling system designed to extract liquids from capillary structures using a vacuum source or a vacuum generator to be used on diapers and the like - Google Patents

Liquid handling system designed to extract liquids from capillary structures using a vacuum source or a vacuum generator to be used on diapers and the like Download PDF

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Publication number
WO2011132043A1
WO2011132043A1 PCT/IB2011/000710 IB2011000710W WO2011132043A1 WO 2011132043 A1 WO2011132043 A1 WO 2011132043A1 IB 2011000710 W IB2011000710 W IB 2011000710W WO 2011132043 A1 WO2011132043 A1 WO 2011132043A1
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WIPO (PCT)
Prior art keywords
liquid
vacuum
means
suction
container
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Application number
PCT/IB2011/000710
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
Carlos Richer
Virginio Marconato
Original Assignee
Carlos Richer
Virginio Marconato
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Publication date
Priority to US32767710P priority Critical
Priority to US61/327,677 priority
Application filed by Carlos Richer, Virginio Marconato filed Critical Carlos Richer
Publication of WO2011132043A1 publication Critical patent/WO2011132043A1/en

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Classifications

    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A61MEDICAL OR VETERINARY SCIENCE; HYGIENE
    • A61FFILTERS IMPLANTABLE INTO BLOOD VESSELS; PROSTHESES; DEVICES PROVIDING PATENCY TO, OR PREVENTING COLLAPSING OF, TUBULAR STRUCTURES OF THE BODY, e.g. STENTS; ORTHOPAEDIC, NURSING OR CONTRACEPTIVE DEVICES; FOMENTATION; TREATMENT OR PROTECTION OF EYES OR EARS; BANDAGES, DRESSINGS OR ABSORBENT PADS; FIRST-AID KITS
    • A61F5/00Orthopaedic methods or devices for non-surgical treatment of bones or joints; Nursing devices; Anti-rape devices
    • A61F5/44Devices worn by the patient for reception of urine, faeces, catamenial or other discharge; Portable urination aids; Colostomy devices
    • A61F5/451Genital or anal receptacles
    • A61F5/453Genital or anal receptacles for collecting urine or other discharge from male member
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A61MEDICAL OR VETERINARY SCIENCE; HYGIENE
    • A61FFILTERS IMPLANTABLE INTO BLOOD VESSELS; PROSTHESES; DEVICES PROVIDING PATENCY TO, OR PREVENTING COLLAPSING OF, TUBULAR STRUCTURES OF THE BODY, e.g. STENTS; ORTHOPAEDIC, NURSING OR CONTRACEPTIVE DEVICES; FOMENTATION; TREATMENT OR PROTECTION OF EYES OR EARS; BANDAGES, DRESSINGS OR ABSORBENT PADS; FIRST-AID KITS
    • A61F5/00Orthopaedic methods or devices for non-surgical treatment of bones or joints; Nursing devices; Anti-rape devices
    • A61F5/44Devices worn by the patient for reception of urine, faeces, catamenial or other discharge; Portable urination aids; Colostomy devices
    • A61F5/451Genital or anal receptacles
    • A61F5/455Genital or anal receptacles for collecting urine or discharge from female member
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A61MEDICAL OR VETERINARY SCIENCE; HYGIENE
    • A61GTRANSPORT, PERSONAL CONVEYANCES, OR ACCOMMODATION SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR PATIENTS OR DISABLED PERSONS; OPERATING TABLES OR CHAIRS; CHAIRS FOR DENTISTRY; FUNERAL DEVICES
    • A61G9/00Bed-pans, urinals or other sanitary devices for bed-ridden persons; Cleaning devices therefor, e.g. combined with toilet-urinals

Abstract

The instant invention relates to a system for handling liquids such as the removal of liquid human exudates from absorbent products such as diapers and sanitary towels and the like using an external source of vacuum or a vacuum generator system that is connected with a flexible hose to a suction cup placed inside the absorbent product. The suction cup may be of flexible materials or made of solid metal, and may force absorbent fibers as may be in close proximity to the cup with the help of magnets or other mechanical means, such as the use of elastomeric materials, adhesives, or sewing. The flexible cup may compress absorbent fibers in order to extract the liquids by capillarity exerted by the absorbent fibers, allowing the liquids to be removed with the help of the vacuum generated by the external system or from any other source of vacuum and thanks to the higher compression of the absorbent fibers around the area of the suction cup that help create a seal with the absorbent material. The suction cup can also be connected to a liquid sensitive valve designed to block the vacuum until the valve is melted with the first insult; the invention reduces the collection of gas to a minimal. This way the vacuum is better optimized for liquid extraction and not wasted on the collection of air.

Description

"LIQUID HANDLING SYSTEM DESIGNED TO EXTRACT LIQUIDS FROM

CAPILLARY STRUCTURES USING A VACUUM SOURCE OR A VACUUM GENERATOR TO BE USED ON DIAPERS AND THE LIKE" The instant invention relates to the handling of liquids such as the

removal of liquid human exudates from absorbent products such as diapers and sanitary towels and the like using an external source of vacuum or a vacuum generator system that is connected with a flexible hose to a suction cup placed inside the absorbent product. The suction cup may be flexible, or solid made of metal, and may force absorbent fibers to be in close proximity to the cup with the help of magnets or other mechanical means, such as the use of elastomeric materials, adhesives, or sewing. The flexible cup may compress absorbent fibers in order to extract the liquids by capillarity exerted by the absorbent fibers, allowing the liquids to be removed with the help of the vacuum generated by the external system or from any other source of vacuum and thanks to the higher compression of the absorbent fibers around the area of the suction cup that help create a seal with the absorbent material; it results in reducing the collection of gas to a minimal. This way the vacuum is better optimized for liquid extraction and not wasted on the collection of air

BACKGROUND OF THE NEED FOR THE INVENTION

Since long times, there has been a need for efficient handling of liquids. Whilst having reached relatively little attention so far, liquid handling systems for agricultural use aim at essentially maintenance free operation for varying conditions. The need to collect water for human consumption or agricultural irrigation is essential in many areas of the world where there is limited supply of water. Within the field of hygiene, absorbent systems have been used for a long time in order to help collect organic materials including urine from adult incontinence patients and babies who have not learned yet to potty train; and blood and organic fluids from menstruating women.

These products are made using natural absorbent materials such as cellulose, cotton and other similar materials or made with synthetic fibers treated to absorb liquids with surfactants (such as 3 polypropylene, polyesters, polyethylene, synthetic foams, etc). These systems exhibit a capillary structure, and the liquid may be absorbed within a fiber (such as when a cellulose fiber swells) or in interstitial voids between fibers or in pores of foams (such as of a cellulose sponge). Additionally, other compounds like super absorbents, such as sodium polyacrylate, also known in the industry as SAP (super absorbent polymer) or similar products are often used. To avoid liquids from getting out from the absorbing system, water impervious materials are used on the back surface such as plastic films, water hydrophobic laminates or similar. The absorbing materials used in the system tend to absorb and to be filled with organic liquids so that they must be removed and substituted frequently. Typical products used today to control human urine are those known as baby and adult diapers (either reusable or disposable), adult briefs, and sanitary incontinent towels. Typical products used to control human blood and menstrual fluids from women are those known as sanitary napkins and tampons.

One of the problems with the commercial products available today is that they are often left over prolonged periods of time on the users, especially for those that have to remain still in bed, those with mobility problems who have to use wheelchairs, or those that have to be assisted by a nurse or guardian or caretaker.

Even for active adults with incontinence using disposable products, it is often difficult for them to find a place where to change the product so they have to keep using it until they find an opportunity to change it. This results in irritated skin and sometimes maceration or other skin diseases. Those who are perfectly healthy and do not have any kind of incontinence sometimes can have a difficult time finding a toilet. This is the case for military personal during long missions when they have no access to a bathroom, for example when flying a small plane or while inside a tank. This may result in urinary infections related to holding the urine in the bladder for a prolonged time.

Some products other than the common disposable diapers and incontinence towels have been made in the past using the knowledge from prior art to achieve the removing of organic liquids from absorbing products. Next we attempt to summarize the most important ones.

BACKGROUND OF PRIOR ART

U.S. Pat. No. 4,610,675 (Triunfol, 1986) presents a device used to collect fluid discharged from female organs that is designed solely for incontinent women, and the design includes a pad, vacuum pump and liquid sensor, however, the pad is invasive because it is formed of plastic and has ridges to move the labia to an open position for free flow of liquid.

U.S. Pat. No. 4,233,025 (Larson, 1980), describes an aspirator for keeping an area dry such as in dentistry. This invention was not intended to be used in diapers and the like, and it does not describe the use of the required regulating suction device to be used in a diaper application.

U. S. Pat. No. 5,437,651 (Todd, 1995), describes the use of an absorbent pad apparatus connected to a vacuum source for removing blood during surgical procedures. W O. Pat. No. 2004/056408 (Grossman, 2004) describes an apparatus for draining fluids from a patient using a vacuum bottle.

Again, both of these two inventions were not originally intended to be used inside a diaper or a sanitary towel, and they fail to describe the regulating system used to control the start of the suction in a typical incontinence application.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,499,977 (Marx, 1996) describes the use of a male external catheter with vacuum assist utilizing a rubber bulb that functions as a vacuum. As such, the basic concept of bladder discharge collection systems and their use are disclosed but fail to provide an automatic regulating system for the start of the suction and an acceptable solution for the millions of users of adult incontinence diapers that do not want to use a catheter due to comfort reasons during extended periods of time, in addition is not practical to be used in sanitary napkins.

Mark R. Harvie invented a system in 2004 specifically designed to be used with the disposable diaper or a sanitary napkin application to remove organic fluids from the absorbing pad; even when it has some interesting practical applications, it has also some important cost limitations that will limit its commercial success as we will further explain.

U. S. Pat. No.6,706,027 (Harvie, 2004), U. S. Pat. No.6,918,899 (Harvie, 2005), U. S. Pat.

No.7, 131,964 (Harvie, 2006), U.S. Pat. No. 7, 135,012 (Harvie 2006), U.S. Pat. No.

7141043 (Harvie, 2006) and U.S. Pat. No. 7335189 (Harvie, 2008) all of these six patents invented by Mark R.

Harvie between 2004 and 2008 describe an automatic bladder relief system designed to automatically remove urine from an absorbent product such as a diaper or a sanitary towel using a pump operated system powered by either a rechargeable battery or by plugging to an electrical source, and then the collected urine is deposited into an outside container with the possibility of having added superabsorbent in the container. All these last patents describe the use of an electrical or battery operated pump connected to a suction device; unfortunately, the required amount of vacuum has to be substantially high for it to be capable for removing the liquids from the absorbent pad into the container. To a large extent, this is due to the fact, that not only the liquid, but also a significant amount of air is sucked by the vacuum. For this reason a small power consumption mini pump, for example like those using a typical 1.5V battery, cannot be used. This invention, as it was described, requires a larger and more expensive battery pack, similar to the battery packs used to provide power to a portable notebook computer. In addition, a pump with a control unit has to be used in conjunction to his invention. A typical control unit sold by Mr. Harvie's company "Omni Medical Systems, Inc" is currently offered in the Internet for several thousand dollars per unit (October 2008). Harvie's design was primarily intended to be used by the armed forces during extended operations, such as fighter pilots, tank operators and the like. This cost, even when it may be acceptable for the U.S. or British Air Force, is, without a doubt, not acceptable for the general public who may be experiencing some kind of incontinence. An additional problem is that for this invention complex electronic sensing devices and internal inflatable parts are needed or suggested as options for a successful detection of the urine insult and for the extraction of the urine into the container. Without this sensing system, the batteries may be drained pre-maturely due to the continuous suction of air into the container.

Another problem is that the cost of the parts, such as replacement disposable diapers and sanitary towels used in connection with this invention, are also substantially higher than the commercial products sold in typical mass merchandising products

Marconato presents an improved system with a suction device and a regulating valve inserted into the absorbent product, PN2006A000097 (Marconato, 2006). The regulating valve designed by Marconato is operated by a salt plug, which is also connected to a vacuum container. The vacuum container can be external or located inside the same absorbing product. After an insult is done to the diaper, the liquid dissolves the salt of the regulating valve and slowly opens the connection so the 6 suction can be started without the need of an electronic sensor. Marconato also presents the possibility of delayed suction action by using different chemistry in the regulating system (using the same special kind of valve), something that we have referred here as a "liquid sensitive" valve, and Marconato also mentioned the possibility of using multiple vacuum containers.

This new invention that we now present, describes innovative ways to manufacture an external reservoir used to start the suction that allows the handling of liquids such as for the extraction of liquids from the absorbent garments; this system can start up the suction of the liquid, such as urine or other bodily exudates automatically and more quickly, and reducing the intake of gas at the same time thanks to the use of a suction cup working under pressure and forcing the intake of liquids by capillarity, making this new invention very attractive to use as a complement to the original Marconato PCT, PN2006A000097 patent application.

GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF THE FEATURES OF THE INVENTION

Removing liquids from absorbent garments using vacuum has been tried many times in the past but with limited success; the main problem has been the intake of bubbles of air and the reduced efficiency of the whole system. The present invention has found a novel way to achieve the handling of liquids from capillary structures such as absorbent garments using a vacuum source by taking advantage of the capillarity of the material such as fibers or foams by compression in combination with the use of a suction means that seals well with the liquid depository means. This way it is possible to remove the liquids surrounding the location of the suction means by the increased capillarity and the more effective liquid contact of the vacuum with the wet region of the garment. In a particular embodiment, the present invention also describes a system that has been designed to generate vacuum automatically or manually in order to start the extraction of urine or similar waste fluids from a diaper or sanitary towel and the like, in a safe and comfortable manner with distinct improvements over similar devices and methods which may already be patented or commercially available. As such, the general purpose of the present invention, which will be described subsequently in greater detail, is to generate vacuum using one of many different alternatives, or use an already available vacuum source, to extract liquids from a liquid receiving region such as absorbent pads, or diapers and the like using a suction cup under compression.

Vacuum can be generated by using a pressurized balloon that has been previously inflated inside a sealed container and then allowed to deflate under the controlled release of the gas using a valve with in order to generate vacuum. The vacuum generating container may comprise, a plastic reservoir with an inlet that can be connected to a liquid transport mean; a vacuum generating system that can use an inflatable balloon placed inside the container which is connected to a gas valve that permits the inflation and the controlled deflation of the balloon; a compressed gas cartridge used to inflate the balloon; a mechanical vacuum indicator, and optional means to drain the liquids from the reservoir.

The vacuum can also be generated using a simple manual pump or an electric or battery operated pump from the many commercially available options. The vacuum generator is optionally connected to a liquid sensitive valve, this is a special kind of valve that will open only after it has been in contact with liquids allowing the suction to start One of many ways to make such a liquid sensitive valve is by using a pin to close a flexible hose and then secure the pin in closed position using a dissolvable shell, such as a half of a conventional medicine capsule (only the exterior shell) in such a way that once the valve is wet, the shell dissolves and allows the opening of the pin and the connection with the vacuum source. This valve is placed inside the absorbent garment and it will remain closed until the liquid insult or the urine in the absorbent garment dissolves the soluble material that blocks the conduit for the vacuum. The vacuum generator can also be directly connected to the suction cup inside the absorbent garment without the need of this valve. The suction cup may be held in place and under compression with the assistance of magnets or other means of attachment, such as stitching, the use of adhesives, or other mechanical means. A simple way to hold the suction cup in place is making it of metal like steel like a bottle cap, and then it is possible to use a single magnet only on the outside, helping reduce the cost of the system.

There are various preferred embodiments of the present invention directed to solving problems not addressed in the prior art, for example, the use of a container that has been already pre-charged with vacuum is less practical than a particular execution of our current invention because it is easy to lose the vacuum inside the container when the suction starts collecting gas instead of urine while waiting for the first insult; another example when the insult of urine is just enough to open a liquid sensitive valve that controls the suction, but still a too small amount to fill the container. The result is the loss of vacuum in the container and if later more urine is deposited, then it is likely it will leak. In addition it is difficult to disconnect the hose from the suction device without losing all vacuum almost immediately. The use of the suction cup under compression with a flow regulating valve is another improvement that helps reduce the intake of gas due to the capillarity of the fibers, this is because of the liquid contact established between the fibers and the vacuum source, making it much more efficient than any previous solution described on the prior art.

Without wishing to be bound by this explanation, a good analogy about how liquids are extracted from the absorbent garment is the process how a baby sucks milk from mother's breast. The baby attaches the mouth to the nipple and uses the lips to make a seal, and then it is possible to extract the milk but only after a good seal has been created. In a similar way, in this invention the suction cup is designed to seal with the absorbent garment once it is wet, only then it is possible to extract the urine using a vacuum source. Unlike the prior art, in a particular execution we suggest the use of a mechanically assisted device, which, once the "liquid sensitive" material is in contact with the urine, will result in the full opening of the hose and basically achieve the full flow rate from the very start without having to wait additional time. Another execution of the invention uses a flow control valve designed to control the speed of the flow according to each kind of incontinence, from a fast suction when the valve is fully open, to a very slow flow where only a few milliliters per minute are allowed to pass

Also, a further execution of the present invention provides a collection system that requires no manipulation to utilize, leaving the user's hand free and at the same time avoiding the need of any electronic sensing devices to detect the presence of an insult, and due to its small size design, it is also comfortable.

Yet a further embodiment provides a solution to another problem not addressed by the prior art such as Marconato's PN2006A000097 patent application, namely the use of a pressurized balloon or a flexible container with an internal spring as optional alternatives from many available to generate the, required vacuum. This way it is much easier to recharge the system using an external pump or compressed gas, or simply by squeezing the flexible container, and even in case the hose is disconnected from the suction device for a short time, the controlled release of the gas of the balloon or the use of a flow regulation valve when using the flexible container, allows for a continuous vacuum source. This way there is much better control of vacuum generated when compared with the original pre- charged container. Another advantage of the present invention is the optimization of the use of generated vacuum: due to the design of the suction cup exerting a pressure to the surrounding regions, the capillarity in these regions is increased, and liquid may be better removed, e.g. from the surrounding fibrous structure.. Without the region surrounding the suction cup being under compression, it is much easier for the system to lose its vacuum, as the air bubbles would find their way much more readily into the cup instead of the urine. These together with other objects of the invention, along with the various features of novelty which characterize the invention, will be pointed out in detail in the claims which will be annexed to and forming a part of the full patent application. For a better

understanding of the invention with its various embodiments, its operating advantages and the specific objects attained by its uses, reference should be made to the accompanying drawings and descriptive matter in which there are illustrated preferred embodiments of the invention.

SUMMARY OF INVENTION. The present invention relates to a liquid handling system for bladder relief, such as a diaper or absorbent towel and the like; and describes a method of operating a system comprising an external container which is connected to a liquid extraction device or suction means, called here the suction cup, that is located in liquid contact with the liquid such as bodily exudates in order to remove these collected liquids wherein such liquids are collected in the external container under vacuum or directly discarded, e.g. into a toilet.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS.

Figure 1 shows the construction of a flexible suction cup.

Figure la shows another option for a rigid suction cup, made of metal.

Figure 2 shows the tip of the suction cup before amplification.

Figure 3 shows an amplification view of the tip of the suction cup that is designed for better seal.

Figure 3 a shows a pad with the suction cup and the magnets used to fix the position of the cup.

Figure 3b shows how the two magnets fix the position of the suction cup on a diaper Figure 3c shows what happens when urine is poured into the absorbent pad

Figure 3d shows the movement of liquid due to the capillarity of the fibers and the vacuum suction.

Figure 4 shows a preferred embodiment of the suction cup using multiple flexible rings. Figure 5 shows a preferred embodiment of the suction cup with a magnet attached inside. Figure 6 shows how two magnets can be connected between each other with a cord or the like

Figure 7 shows how the suction cup can be placed inside the absorbent core.

Figure 8 shows how the absorbent fibers are compressed by the magnetic force.

Figure 9 shows an alternative to attach the suction cup with an elastic material or a screw and nut.

Figure 9a shows another way to attach the suction cup with a plastic strip used for electrical cables.

Figure 10 shows how to attach the suction cup under compression using sewing.

Figure 1 1 shows how to attach the suction cup using adhesive.

Figure 12 shows one particular embodiment of the vacuum generator.

Figure 13 shows how the vacuum generator can be connected to the suction cup inside the diaper.

Figure 13a shows a preferred embodiment for a liquid sensitive valve.

Figure 14 shows how the balloon inside the container can be inflated with compressed gas.

Figure 15 shows the process of inflating the balloon with the C02 cartridge.

Figure 16 shows the vacuum generator ready to extract liquids from the absorbent garment.

Figure 17 shows the suction of liquid replacing the volume lost by the balloon.

Figure 18 shows one complete system using the inflatable balloon to create vacuum.

Figure 19 shows an alternative method to generate vacuum using a spring-loaded container.

Figure 19 a shows one way to recharge the vacuum using the hands and two check valves. Figure 19 b shows the use of a mechanical device to assist with container's compression. Figure 20 shown another method to generate vacuum using a manual pump to the WC. Figure 21 shows an alternative vacuum generator using an electrical pump manually operated.

Figure 22 shows a vacuum generator using an automatic pump controlled by a timer. Figure 23 shows how a container can be used to collect the urine using an external manual pump.

Figure 24 shows how a container can be used to collect the urine using a pump operated by a timer.

Figure 25 shows an optional location for the container to be used with this system.

Identical numerals in the figures refer to corresponding features. DESCRIPTION OF REFERENCE NUMERALS USED IN THE DRAWINGS

Exact hardware details and means may vary in a final product or most preferred embodiment and

should be considered as not to narrow the claims of the patent.

(1) Suction cup and its perimeter (la)

(2) Flexible hose

(3) Magnets (3a, 3b); connecting cord (3c)

(4) Cellulose or Fluff

(5) Diaper plastic surface ("backsheet")

(6) Plastic disc

(7) Elastic (8) Glue

(9) Sewing

(10) Nonwoven

( 1 1) Plastic wall tile., like those used to put a nail on a wall.

(12) Absorbent pad

(13) Holding ring, made of similar material that is used to make medicine capsule shells (13a) A small cylinder made of plastic or metal, strong enough to compress the flexible hose.

(14) Non flexible container.

(15) Flexible container

(16) Rigid or semi rigid container.

(17) Manual pump

(17a) Lever for manual pump

(18) Electric AC/DC - battery pump with manual switch (18a) for activation

(19) Electric Battery Pump + Timer ( 19a)

(20) Liquid sensitive valve [(20) - closed state) / (20') opened state]

(21) Inflatable balloon

(22) Valve (similar to valve used in a car or bicycle tire)

(23) Lid

(23a) Connector / discharge opening

(24) Cylinder cartridges with C02 or similar pressurized gas (24a).

(25) Check valve to prevent liquids from returning to the suction cup.

(26) Magnetic mount of suction cup on a diaper.

(27) Strong compression of suction cup on cellulose due to vacuum.

(28) Flexible hose showing the effect of the vacuum. (29) General capillary flow direction.

(30) Compression by compression means (rather than vacuum enhanced)

(31 ) Capillary / liquid flow lines

(32) Liquid insult / urine loading / flow [(32' upon draining]

(33) Empty space with vacuum

(37) Hands squeezing container.

(38) Plastic strip with stop used to hold electrical wires together.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION.

With reference now to the drawings, Figures 1-25, a new and novel apparatus for liquid handling system is presented as an important improvement over the prior art, such as described in PN2006A000097 (Marconato, 2006). To simplify with the explanation of this invention, the complete system will be described in the context of a bladder relief system. The system comprises a liquid depository means, which may be any absorbent capillary absorbent structure such as a diaper or a sanitary napkin. Often, such a liquid depository means comprises fibers, although other absorbent materials such as absorbent foam may be used. The liquid depository means comprises capillaries into which may be filled by the deposited liquid upon an insult. Preferably, the absorbent structure has only relatively low absorbent capacity so as to allow readily the transfer of the liquid. Preferably, the absorbent structure has a retention capacity of less than about lOg/g, determined according to the well known "tea bag centrifuge capacity" (i.e. after being immersed in 0.9% saline solution and centrifuged at about 350g for 3 minutes). A further element of the system is a liquid suction means positioned in the liquid collection region of the liquid depository means, such as the absorbent pad, in a way that there will be a liquid contact between the suction means and the wetted region of the absorbent pad. "Liquid contact" refers to a situation, wherein liquids may move or be moved from the wetted region to the suctions means, such as upon a liquid movement driving force. Conversely, there are no liquid barriers, such as liquid impermeable films, or plugged capillaries. A third element of the system is a container or reservoir designed to hold the liquids, which in order to collect the liquids is under a vacuum (relative to the suction means) and thus may suck the liquid out of the capillaries surrounding the suction means. The vacuum in the container may be created by a vacuum generator, which may be an external device located outside of the absorbent garment. The vacuum generator is a convenient way to generate the vacuum but it is only one option in the sense that any other vacuum source can be used, even a continuous vacuum source that may be already present in many hospital rooms.

The suction means comprises a compression means and may be made out of soft and flexible material, such as an elastomeric, so as to not negatively impact the comfort of the wearer; or solid, for example made of metal, with a size that is not uncomfortable to the wearer. The suction means may further comprise a fixation element, such as a magnet attached on its inner face, or it can be simply made of metal; and an open orifice on its side where a liquid transport means, such as a flexible hose, can be connected and secured. To attach the suction cup and fix its positioning in the depository means, as well as to create a compression force, a magnet on the outside of the depository means can be used such that the two magnets are attracted by the magnetic force between them; or when using a metal suction cup without a magnet, the metal is attracted by the external magnet. Using one magnet instead of two can help reduce the cost of the system. The suction cup compresses the liquid collection region of the depository means (i .e. e.g. the absorbent fibers) resulting in a higher density of the fibers than its surroundings outside the suction cup, creating an effective seal that helps reduce the intake of air.

An explanation of how to make a suction mean using as an example the suction cup assembly just described will come first, and later an explanation of how to make the vacuum generator that will be connected to the suction means using a flexible hose.

Figure 1 shows a top and a side view of a simple suction cup. In this particular case, the suction cup is made of two components, a soft flexible liquid impervious round cup made out of plastic or soft silicon (1) connected to a flexible hose (2). As can be seen in the upper side view of Figure 1, the height or thickness of this cup can measure of from about one millimeter to as much as several millimeters. Preferably, it should not be too thick as otherwise it might end up not being comfortable for the end user. It should also not be too thin, as the hose will be difficult to attach or it might need to be so small in diameter in order to fit the side orifice of the cup that it is not possible to have a good flow of liquids under practical vacuums with such a reduced diameter; the typical preferred thickness of the suction cup is between 2 to 10 millimeters. Figure 1 shows at the bottom a top view of the same cup. The shape can be round as shown on this drawing or elliptical or any other shape suitable to fit comfortably into the liquid depository means, with an area ranging from just a few square millimeters to as much as desired. Typically, such an area will be in the range from about 5 cm2 to about 50 cm2. The flexible hose (2) can have an inner / outer diameter ranging from half a millimeter to several millimeters, however 2 to 6 millimeters in diameter is the preferred embodiment. Figure la shows an alternative construction method for the suction cup where the cup may be made of metal, as we will see later, this alternative can help reduce costs by avoiding the need to use two magnets. Figure 2 shows the cut out section of the perimeter (la) of the suction cup that is later amplified in Figure 3 to help with the description. In Figure 3, the perimeter of the cup is in the form of a sharp edge (la) that helps create a better seal with the compressed material, such as absorbent fibers. When the cup is under compression (here indicated by compression arrow 30) and the fibers are wet (here shown as filled capillary flow lines 31), this cutting edge ompresses the capillaries between the fibers thereby reducing the risk of air leaking to the vacuum (here shown by the opening 28 of the hose 2) and forcing the liquids to get into the cup by capillarity (along the general capillary flow direction 29). The dashed line represents a section of the area that is sealed by the cup. It is difficult to achieve a good seal between the suction cup and the absorbent material 4 as long as the liquid depository means is dry. This is because of the lack of uniformity of the surface, and could possibly be overcome by an extreme pressure, which would create an uncomfortable hard spot region on the depository means. The invention, however, takes into account that the seal will effectively be only created after the absorbent fibers are wetted. In order to avoid leaking of air into the vacuum while the absorbent garment is dry, a liquid sensitive valve or a manual operated valve can be used to shut the connection of the hose with the vacuum source, this will be better explained with detail later. The following four Figures: Figure 3a, Figure 3b, Figure 3c and Figure 3d will be used to explain how the present invention allows to extract the liquids from an absorbent pad with a minimal loss of vacuum related to gas intake and with improved performance. Figure 3a shows the suction cup (1) and two magnets (3a and 3b) here shown joined together with a piece of cord or the like (3c) to help in handling; as well as a typical absorbent pad (12) with the nonwoven hydrophilic material on the top (10). If the suction cup is made of metal, then it is also possible to use only one magnet 3b and the magnet 3a is not needed.

We will later explain with more detail how to assemble the magnet into the suction cup. Figure 3b shows how an opening is made to the nonwoven top sheet (10 - here shown in a rolled up configuration) in order to allow inserting the suction cup and holding it in place with the use of the two magnets (3a and 3b), resulting in a magnetic force (30) that compresses the absorbent fibers (4). Figure 3c shows the same pad after a urine insult (32) takes place. Because the cup is under magnetic forces, when the fibers are wet they as well as the capillaries 31 collapse and result in a more uniform surface and a much better seal with the cup is obtained. Figure 3d shows how liquids enter the suction cup by capillarity (29) due to the pulling effect of the vacuum (28) in the hose (2) and the increased strong compression on the cellulose by the action of the vacuum in the suction cup (27). When such a movement of liquids is produced we say it is in "liquid contact" with its

surroundings. This way it is possible not only to extract the liquids underneath the area of the suction cup but also its immediate surroundings outside of the cup. During the extraction of the liquids it is also possible that the capillaries become drained without further liquid being supplied and thus the liquid contact may become interrupted. Whilst some air bubbles can enter into the hose, this can be minimized such as by the correct design of the cup in connection with the vacuum used and the flow rate selected in the vacuum generator. Also, using a timer to control the vacuum, as it will be explained later, can be very convenient. Figure 4 shows another embodiment of the suction cup using a multiple set of rings as shown in Figure 4. It shows a side and a top view of an alternative design of a suction cup using four rings or steps, it is possible to use from two to as many as needed. Figure 5 shows one method on how to place one of the magnets inside this suction cup. In this case, the magnet (3a) is inserted to one of the inner rings of the flexible suction cup (1). An alternative is to place the magnet at the very top ring and then attach the hose to the side just below the magnet. The magnet can be held in place using adhesives or just by the internal force of the flexible ring if it is designed with the correct modulus of elasticity. The preferred embodiment for this kind of suction cup has a diameter between 5 to 90 mm, and a hose of 1 to 6 mm in diameter. Of course many more options are possible. Figure 6 shows how the suction cup can be prepared for assembly by the use of a cord (3c) that joints the two magnets (3a; 3b) together.

This is also convenient in case of a re-usable suction cup assembly, when after it has been removed from a soiled diaper it can be cleaned and put into a new diaper. It is also possible to use only one magnet and a suction cup made of metal, as explained before, this way when the diaper is soiled it can be disposed without the need to reuse the suction cup and the whole diaper can be disposed, including the metal suction cup. Figure 7 shows a complete view of this suction means assembly and how the suction cup assembly can be placed inside an absorbent garment (12). A small reclosable window (10a) is made into the sanitary napkin or disposable diaper at the target area where liquids insults may occur. The cup with a first magnet 3a is placed inside this opening and in direct contact with the absorbent fibers, just under the nonwoven top sheet or under the acquisition distribution layer (if present). Then the other magnet 3b is placed on the outside at the same location in a way that a magnetic force holds the two magnets in position. An alternative is to make a pouch like into the disposable diaper between the nonwoven and the absorbent pad, and then the metallic suction cup can be inserted until it reaches the typical insult location and then fixed in place with the external magnet. Figure 8 shows another view of how the fibers (4) of an absorbent pad can be compressed by magnetic forces, forcing the urine (26) to be sucked along the capillary flow lines (31) and reducing any leaks of vacuum with air bubbles. Further, the suction will increase the compression of the pad, here shown by arrow 27. In a preferred embodiment, the density of the fibers at the perimeter of the suction cup increases between 10% to as much as 10 times the original density in its surroundings around the cup. Typical densities for sanitary napkins and adult diapers range between 0.06 grams/cm3 to as much as 0.35 grams/cm3 prior to compressing as described. Figure 9 to 1 1 show different alternatives on how to place the suction cup into the diaper under compression without the use of magnets; Figure 9 shows the possibility to use elastic threads (7) joint together with plastic discs (6) positioned on the outside of the back sheet (5) of the article and on top of the suction cup 1 ; Figure 9a shows the possibility to use a standard plastic strip, used to hold electrical wires together, to hold the suction cup in position under compression; Figure 10 shows another option using sewing with an elastic thread (here indicated schematically by ellipses 9); Figure 1 1 shows the same assembly but using hot melt adhesive (8); it is also possible to use any other mechanical options such as the use of a screw and a nut with a plastic disk (6).

Figure 12 shows one preferred embodiment for a container or reservoir for holding liquids in combination with a means for creating and maintaining vacuum. In this case, it is a rigid or semi rigid container (16) that can be manufactured out of plastic, aluminum, stainless steel or similar materials, as long as it is capable of essentially keeping its shape under usual pressures. The preferred embodiment for the container in Figure 12 has a volume between 100 ml to 3,000 ml; inside this container there is a balloon (21) capable of displacing most of the volume of air inside the container when fully inflated. The container has a lid (23) with one connector (23a) and a flow regulation valve (22). The connector (23a) is used to allow air to exit the balloon and further to connect the hose that goes to the suction cup described before, while the valve (22) is used to inflate the balloon and control the speed of deflation. It is similar to a check valve in the sense that allows free flow in one direction but unlike the check valve this valve allows a small controllable flow rate in the other direction in order to control the speed of deflation. In a preferred embodiment of the invention, the flow rate for the output of the valve (22) can be calibrated between 0.25 ml to as much as 250 ml per minute, this can be a predetermined fixed rate, or it can be manually adjusted.

The flow rate for the input of the valve should be as high as possible for a speedy inflation of the balloon.

Figure 13 shows the complete system comprised of the absorbent garment (12) with the suction cup (1) with an optional valve (20) connected to the hose (2). This valve (20) can be a liquid sensitive valve, this is a special kind of valve designed to open until it has been in contact with a liquid.

Figure 13a shows a preferred embodiment of a liquid sensitive valve, comprised of a flexible hose (1), a common plastic wall tile or the like (1 1), a small solid cylinder (13), and a liquid dissolving ring (13). The flexible hose (1) is passed trough the wall tile (1 1) and a holding ring made of the same material used to make the medicine capsules ( 13) is used to close the flexible hose by applying pressure to a small cylinder (13). In case such a liquid sensitive valve is used, it should be placed inside the liquid collection area so it will be able to immediately react to an insult. This way the bladder relief system will open automatically after the absorbent garment is insulted, but not before, avoiding the unnecessary loss of vacuum while waiting for the first insult. An alternative to this valve is to use an external valve that can be operated manually by the user when the user senses that the diaper is wet in order to start the extraction of liquids. Figure 14 and 15 shows an embodiment, wherein compressed gas is used to fill the balloon by using a cartridge (24), such as with compressed C02 (24a) and filling the gas through the valve (22) into the inflating balloon (21).

Once the balloon has been fully inflated and air is allowed to slowly go out of the container, it can be connected to the suction cup assembly.

Figure 16 shows how the vacuum generator is connected to the suction cup assembly. When an optional valve (20) is being used, the system will have the full capacity but will not start suction until the valve is opened. There are several options to start the liquid removal. First, the valve (20) can be a liquid sensitive valve, located near the target area and in liquid connection thereto. Once the diaper is wet, the valve will automatically open allowing the vacuum to take the urine from the diaper. An alternative is to have a manual valve where the user will open it after sensing that the diaper is wet. In order to avoid the possibility of the liquid from the container accidentally returning to the suction cup, a check valve (25) can be used.

Figure 17 shows what happens once the valve is open (here shown as (20'). As the balloon inside the container slowly deflates (21) through the control valve (22), it generates inside the rigid container (16) a vacuum (here indicated by (33)), that forces the liquids deposited on the pad (12) through the suction cup (1) by the action of the vacuum and the capillarity in the cellulose fibers under the cup (1) and further through the flexible hose (2) to the container (16), as indicated by urine flow path arrows (32). The speed of the deflation of balloon can be calibrated according to the different kinds of incontinence, from just a few minutes to several hours. The vacuum generated is a function of the speed of deflation as well as the seal produced between the suction cup and the absorbent fibers, this is why it is important to have the suction cup under compression to improve the seal with the liquid depository means and reduce the possibility of the intake of air bubbles. The system may be further equipped with vacuum measurement and/or control features, such as an electronic pressure sensor, which may trigger an audible or visual signal, such as when the system has low vacuum or becomes filled up.

One unique feature of this system is that the container can be easily emptied just by disconnecting the hose from the suction cup (2) and allowed to drain directly for example into a toilet or at the WC. If an optional check valve is installed between the container and the suction cup, it is possible to drain the liquid using an additional output from the container without the need to disconnect the hose from the suction cup. As the balloon is being inflated again, the urine is forced out of the container to the WC and a new suction cycle can be started. This can happen as many times as needed until the diaper or sanitary napkin is disposed. The vacuum generator is reusable and there is the option to even reuse the suction cup assembly if desired. Even when the optional liquid sensitive valve (20) will operate automatically only the very first time, as shown in Figure 18, it is still possible to recharge the container and continue the suction of liquids manually without the automatic valve. Even a small amount of remaining liquid in the diaper can help the suction cup to achieve a good seal with minimal loss of vacuum.

Figure 19 shows another preferred embodiment for the vacuum generator using a flexible container (15) that can be assisted with an internal spring when in need for higher vacuums, here shown to expand along direction (15a). Instead of using compressed gas to fill a balloon, Figure 19a shows how the container can be manually compressed with the hands or with a foot pedal to compress the spring forcing the flexible container to collapse. This will start the cycle thanks to the use of two check valves that help direct the flow. If the spring inside the flexible container is too strong to operate by a senior citizen with his hands, it is possible to use a mechanical device, as shown in Figure 19b, to assist with the compression of the container. In this case a lever is used to achieve compression. Many other mechanical systems can be used to empty the container, most of them are already commercial and easy to find.

Figures 20 to 21 show alternative systems for the vacuum generator. In Figure 20 a manual pump (17) is used such as may be operated by a lever (17a). The collected urine may be drained into toilet or WC (32'). In Figure 21 an electrically operated pump ( 18), wherein a switch (18a) can be used to start the vacuum, is used. Figure 22 shows a configuration using an electric pump activated by a timer (19). The timer can be adjusted to turn the pump ON just a few seconds, or several minutes every hour. Using a timer is a convenient way to avoid the need of a liquid sensitive valve, and also to allow the liquid depository means to collect more liquid before the vacuum is automatically restarted. It is possible to calibrate the timer to match the individual requirements of each kind of incontinence. All these systems can discharge the liquid directly to the WC or they can be connected with a further rigid container (14) as shown on Figures 23 and 24. Figure 23 shows the bladder relief system connected with the flexible hose (2) to an external reservoir (14) and then connected to a pump (18) activated with a manual switch. Figure 24 shows a similar system using an electric pump (18) controlled by a timer (19a),

The liquid handling system may comprise more than one container or reservoirs, which may be arranged parallel to each other or in a row, and which may be connected to one and the same suction means or to separate ones. Each of these may also have an independent valve system, such as liquid sensitive valves, which may open at a delayed staggered timing.

Figure 25 shows a preferred location where to position the container in the particular case of users with normal mobility. An alternative is the position the container under the wheelchair or under the bed for night usage or when dealing with bedridden users.

While the above descriptions of the invention, its parts, and operations contain many specifics, these should not be construed as limitations on the scope of the invention, but rather as exemplifications of present embodiments thereof. There are many other possible variations, for example; other embodiments, shapes, and sizes of the device can be constructed to fit on a user and work with a unit designed to work by the principles of the present invention; various materials, pumps, colors and configurations can be employed in the unit's design that would provide interesting embodiment differences to users including such practical designs that would, for instance, conceal the unit.

Accordingly, the scope of the invention should be determined not only by the embodiments illustrated, but by the claims and their legal equivalents as filed herewith.

Claims

1. A liquid handling system for being used as a liquid handling system comprising:
-a liquid depository means comprising a liquid collection region;
-a liquid suction means positioned in liquid contact with said liquid collection region of aid liquid depository means,
-a liquid transport means to allow movement of the liquids, like a small flexible hose, -a container or reservoir designed to hold the liquids once they have been extracted from the depository means:
(characterized in that)
said liquid suction means comprises a compression means for compressing said liquid depository means, and in that said container or reservoir is adapted to hold or generate a vacuum sufficient to transfer liquid from said liquid suction means to said reservoir.
2. A liquid handling means according to claim 1, wherein said liquid depository means comprises fibrous or foamed capillary material, preferably having a liquid holding capacity of less than Og/g, and wherein said liquid collection region of said liquid depository means is compressed by said compression means to a density of at least 10% higher than but preferably not more than 10 times the density of the liquid collection region prior to compressing or the density of the surrounding uncompressed regions.
3. A liquid handling means according to claim 1, wherein said compression means is adapted to exert magnetic forces, elastic forces, or other mechanical forces, such as through sewing, needling, or gluing.
4. A liquid handling means according to claim 1 wherein said liquid suction means is made of a soft and flexible material, has a thickness of between 0. 1 mm and 25 mm, or covers an area of between 1 cm2 and 450 cm2
5. A liquid handling means according to claim 1 wherein said liquid suction means is made of metal, has a thickness of between 0.1 mm and 25 mm, or covers an area of between 1 cm2 and 450 cm2.
6. A liquid handling means according to claim lwherein said container reservoir is essentially not deforming under the vacuum forces for transferring the liquid.
7. A liquid handling means according to claim 1 wherein said vacuum is generated by a vacuum generation means selected from the group of
i) an electrical pump that can be operated with a manual switch or an automatic timer and the liquids can be stored in a container;
ii) a manually operated pump;
iii) a flexible container with or without an assisting spring inside; and
iv) a deflatable balloon inside said container.
8. A liquid handling means according to claim 1 further comprising one or more valves for controlling the liquid contact between said suction cup and said reservoir selected from the group of
a) a liquid sensitive valve system;
b) a manually operated valve; and
c) a check valve.
d) a flow control valve.
9. A liquid handling system kit for being used as a liquid handling system comprising the following kit elements
-a liquid depository means comprising a liquid collection region;
-a liquid suction means positioned in liquid contact with said liquid depository means and adapted to compress said liquid depository means in said liquid collection region,
-a liquid transport means to allow movement of the liquids, like a small flexible hose. -a container or reservoir adapted to hold or generate a vacuum sufficient to transfer liquid from said liquid suction means to said reservoir and designed to hold the liquids once they have been extracted from the depository means comprising, characterized in that said elements are adapted to cooperatively remove liquid from said liquid depository means to said container reservoir.
10. Use of a liquid handling system according to any of claims 1 or a kit according to claim 8 for the removal of liquid from a depositary means to a reservoir.
1 1. A method for handling liquids in a liquid handling system or in an agricultural water collecting system, comprising the steps of
(a) creating vacuum in a vacuum suction reservoir;
(b) connecting said vacuum suction reservoir
by a vacuum tight connection
to a suction means
to create a vacuum therein;
(c) positioning said suction means in liquid connection to a liquid collection region of a depository means;
characterized in that
(d) said liquid as deposited to said liquid depository means is transferred to said liquid collection region by capillary suction, and (e) in that said liquid is further transferred to said reservoir by vacuum suction.
12. A method for handling liquids according to claim 10, wherein said liquid capillary suction is achieved by compressing said liquid collection region to a density of at least 10% higher than but preferably not more than 10 times the density of the liquid collection region prior to compressing or the density of the surrounding uncompressed regions.
13. A method for handling liquids according to claim 10, wherein said vacuum in said reservoir is further supported and/or created by i) manually or automatically triggering an electrical pump,
ii) manually operating a pump;
iii) activating an expanding flexible container with or without an assisting spring inside, and
iv) initiating the controlled deflating of a balloon inside said container.
PCT/IB2011/000710 2010-04-24 2011-03-29 Liquid handling system designed to extract liquids from capillary structures using a vacuum source or a vacuum generator to be used on diapers and the like WO2011132043A1 (en)

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US61/327,677 2010-04-24

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Patent Citations (15)

* Cited by examiner, † Cited by third party
Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
US3520300A (en) * 1967-03-15 1970-07-14 Amp Inc Surgical sponge and suction device
US4233025A (en) 1979-03-08 1980-11-11 Larson William A Hollow cotton roll
US4610675A (en) 1983-09-06 1986-09-09 David Triunfol Device for collecting fluid discharged from female organs
US5437651A (en) 1993-09-01 1995-08-01 Research Medical, Inc. Medical suction apparatus
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