Design researcher
and prototyper

Pleural is the first smart airway clearance device for mucus related respiratory conditions

︎ Tools: CAD, 3D printing, textiles
︎ Process: HCD, rapid prototyping

Pleural is the first smart airway clearance device for mucus related respiratory conditions that empowers users to perform chest physiotherapy autonomously, providing them with immediate relief from breathlessness whilst reducing the risk of infection.

Intelligent machine learning provides users with personalised therapy to clear their airways, and to clear up any uncertainty towards the progression of their lung condition.

We developed a handheld device based on clinically proven techniques including external percussion and vibration for mucus removal. While performing therapy, we wanted our device to give personalised feedback to the user through intelligent analysis of mucus levels in the lungs. We developed technology to build a profile of each user’s unique lungs, to identify areas for targeted treatment. The device is able to guide the user to carry out comprehensive chest physiotherapy with confidence in the comfort of their own home.

By integrating Pleural into their routine, users can take control of their airway clearance and better manage the progression of their lung condition.

pleural on Vimeo.


There are 3.9m people suffering from excess mucus in their lungs within the UK alone. Excessive mucus is a key symptom for many chronic lung conditions, causing debilitating breathlessness, life threatening infections and increased exacerbations. Mucus build up can lead to hospitalisations when unmanaged - patients survive only 3-4 hospitalisations on average.

There is little care available for most people with severe chronic mucus build up. A select few are able to have physiotherapy to help dislodge and move mucus out their lungs, but treatment is irregular, puts a strain on healthcare resources and requires travelling to a clinic.

Designing the device at Pleural was an exercise in human centred design. Morning and evening routines are key moments for people living with excess mucus, so we knew we wanted to create something that felt at home on the bedside table. This meant creating a dock with an easy to read information display that provides therapy guidance as well as progress tracking of the lungs over time. We also created a body cushion that the device could be placed within so that users can treat hard to reach areas with maximum comfort


We knew there was an opportunity to use more advanced technology to create a solution that is smarter and more effective than anything that’s on the market. We underwent a far-reaching experimental design process to explore many low-resolution concepts before deciding on a focused design for clearing excess mucus.

We saw machine learning as a powerful tool to explore and we figured out how to use it to build up a picture of mucus levels within the lungs. This allowed us to engineer a smart device that not only provides therapeutic relief, but it could deliver a guided, bespoke experience.

The device is designed to provide chest physiotherapy similar to that which would normally be performed by a clinician, with two modes in order to remove the mucus effectively: chest percussion and vibration.

Copyright to Will Eliot