Dr Mike Protheroe, of Tongan decent, was born and raised in New Zealand. Mike completed a Bachelor of Engineering from the University of Auckland and worked for many years in the industry until 1994 when he became a teacher here at AUT (then AIT).
Mike started as a lecturer in Engineering with a focus on his main areas of expertise: heat transfer and thermodynamics. When AIT became AUT Mike was encouraged to undertake further study and so completed his Masters in 2004, and has completed a Doctor of Philosophy in 2014.
Mike’s doctoral thesis involved developing a more efficient way of humidification for medical breathing devices, such as those used for the treatment of sleep apnoea.
“Sleep apnoea is a condition where a person involuntary stops breathing while they are asleep” says Mike, “Although breathing does resume after a period of time, the person never really enters a deep sleep state which results in tiredness and a lack of energy when they do wake.”
Mike looked at different ways he could humidify the air in the device as the person slept. He used droplets to dehumidify the air, but he had to make sure that the droplets were completely evaporated before leaving the device. To achieve this, Mike’s research looked at using ultrasound to accelerate the droplet evaporation process.
“My findings were really that the ultra sound was able to accelerate the evaporation of the droplets quite significantly and that could have application in other areas as well.”
Mike says sleep apnoea is common among people of the Pacific, and in many cases people don’t realise they have it, they just always feel tired!