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United States Patent Application 20120066825
Kind Code A1
Birbara; Philip J. ;   et al. March 22, 2012

SELF-CLEANSING PORTABLE URINE COLLECTION DEVICE

Abstract

A self-cleansing portable urine collection device and method of collecting urine in a self-cleansing portable urine collection device. The collection device includes a housing that houses a urine collection receptacle, a cleansing container, a reservoir, and a vacuum suction pump. The receptacle is movable between a stored position and a use position in which the receptacle is configured to collect urine from a user. The cleansing container is configured to supply a cleansing solution to the receptacle. The reservoir is configured to receive the urine and the cleansing solution collected by the receptacle. A vacuum suction pump is disposed within the housing downstream of the reservoir and is configured to transport the urine and the cleansing solution from the receptacle to the reservoir.


Inventors: Birbara; Philip J.; (West Hartford, CT) ; Wang; Wei-Ping; (Arlington, MA)
Serial No.: 243049
Series Code: 13
Filed: September 23, 2011

Class at Publication: 4/309
International Class: A47K 11/12 20060101 A47K011/12


Claims



1. A self-cleansing portable urine collection device comprising: a housing; a urine collection receptacle movable between a stored position in which the receptacle is positioned within the housing and a use position in which the receptacle is positioned outside of the housing and configured to collect urine from a user; a cleansing container disposed within the housing and configured to supply a cleansing solution to the receptacle when the receptacle is in the stored position; a reservoir disposed within the housing and coupled to the receptacle, the reservoir adapted to receive the urine and the cleansing solution collected by the receptacle; and a first pump disposed within the housing downstream of the reservoir, wherein the first pump is a vacuum suction pump coupled to the reservoir and configured to apply a vacuum thereto and further configured to suction the urine and the cleansing solution from the receptacle to the reservoir.

2. The device of claim 1, further comprising a first conduit coupled between the reservoir and the first pump and a second conduit coupled between the receptacle and the reservoir.

3. The device of claim 1, further comprising a second pump coupled to the cleansing container and a third conduit coupled between the second pump and a cleansing solution discharge nozzle, wherein the second pump is configured to transfer cleansing solution from the cleansing container to the receptacle via the third conduit and the discharge nozzle.

4. The device of claim 3, further comprising a control device coupled to at least one sensor and to at least one of the first and second pumps, wherein the control device and the at least one sensor cooperate to at least one of activate and deactivate at least one of the first and second pumps.

5. The device of claim 4, wherein the control device includes a timer, wherein the control device is configured to deactivate the first pump based at least in part upon a time condition utilizing the timer, wherein the control device is configured to deactivate the first pump a predetermined time after activation of the first pump.

6. The device of claim 4, wherein the second pump is activated at least in part by the receptacle being positioned in the stored position, the at least one sensor being configured to detect the receptacle in the stored position, wherein the at least one sensor transmits a signal to the control device to activate the second pump upon the detection of the receptacle being positioned in the stored position.

7. The device of claim 4, further comprising a housing access door movable between an open position and a closed position, wherein the second pump is activated at least in part by the closing of the housing access door to the closed position, the at least one sensor being configured to detect the housing access door in the closed position, wherein the at least one sensor transmits a signal to the control device to activate the second pump upon the detection of the closing of the housing access door to the closed position.

8. The device of claim 7, wherein the second pump is activated at least in part by the combination of the closing of the housing access door to the closed position and the receptacle being positioned in the stored position, the at least one sensor further being configured to detect the receptacle in the stored position, wherein the at least one sensor transmits a signal to the control device to activate the second pump upon the detection of the closing of the housing access door to the closed position and the positioning of the receptacle in the stored position.

9. The device of claim 8, wherein the control device includes a timer, wherein the control device is configured to activate the second pump based at least in part upon a time condition utilizing the timer, wherein the control device is configured to activate the second pump a predetermined time after the detection of the closing of the housing access door to the closed position and the positioning of the receptacle in the stored position.

10. The device of claim 3, further comprising a switch associated with at least one of the first and second pumps, the switch being operable by the user to selectively activate and deactivate at least one of the first and second pumps.

11. The device of claim 1, further comprising a fourth conduit extending from the vacuum suction pump for the discharge of air.

12. The device of claim 1, further comprising a sensor configured to detect a presence of fluid within the receptacle.

13. The device of claim 1, further comprising a measuring apparatus for measuring the level of fluid within at least one of the cleansing container and the reservoir, the measuring apparatus being external to at least one of the cleansing container and the reservoir.

14. The device of claim 13, further comprising a control device and an alarm coupled to the measuring apparatus, wherein the measuring apparatus measures the level of fluid within the reservoir and cooperates with the control device to sound the alarm upon detection of the level of fluid within the reservoir approaching a predetermined reservoir level to provide a warning to the user to empty the reservoir.

15. The device of claim 13, further comprising a control device and an alarm coupled to the measuring apparatus, wherein the measuring apparatus measures the level of fluid within the cleansing container and cooperates with the control device to sound the alarm upon detection of the level of fluid within the cleansing container approaching a predetermined cleansing container level to provide a warning to the user to refill the cleansing container with cleansing solution.

16. The device of claim 1, wherein the reservoir includes a reservoir cap having a seal plate coupled thereto and an inlet tube and an outlet tube coupled to the seal plate, wherein the seal plate and the inlet and outlet tubes form an adjustable assembly configured to move relative to the reservoir for removal of the reservoir from within the housing, wherein the inlet tube connects to the second conduit and the outlet tube connects to the first conduit.

17. A method of collecting urine in a self-cleansing portable urine collection device, the method comprising the steps of: providing a urine collection device including: a housing including a housing access door; a urine collection receptacle movable between a stored position in which the receptacle is stored within the housing and a use position in which the receptacle is positioned outside of the housing and configured to collect urine from a user; a cleansing container disposed within the housing and configured to supply a cleansing solution to the receptacle when in the stored position; a reservoir disposed within the housing and coupled to the receptacle, the reservoir adapted to receive the urine and the cleansing solution collected by the receptacle; a first pump disposed within the housing downstream of the reservoir, the first pump being coupled to the reservoir and configured to transport the urine and the cleansing solution from the receptacle to the reservoir by way of the application of a vacuum to the reservoir; a second pump configured to transport the cleansing solution from the cleansing container to the receptacle when the receptacle is in the stored position; and a control device coupled to the first and second pumps configured to provide automatic activation and deactivation of the first and second pumps; opening the housing access door; moving the receptacle to the use position; collecting urine within the receptacle; transferring the urine from the receptacle to the reservoir via suction applied through a first conduit to the reservoir; positioning the receptacle in the stored position; supplying the cleansing solution from the cleansing container to the receptacle via a second conduit; and transferring the cleansing solution from the receptacle to the reservoir via suction applied through the first conduit thereby flushing any residual urine within the collection device to the reservoir.

18. The method of claim 17, wherein the step of transferring the urine from the receptacle to the reservoir includes activating the first pump for a predetermined time period, wherein activation of the first pump creates the vacuum within the reservoir via a third conduit coupled between the reservoir and the first pump, wherein at least one of the steps of opening the housing access door, positioning the receptacle in the use position, and collecting urine within the receptacle triggers the control device to activate the first pump.

19. The method of claim 17, wherein the step of supplying the cleansing solution from the cleansing container to the receptacle includes activating the second pump for a predetermined time period, wherein at least one of the steps of positioning the receptacle in the stored position and closing a housing access door triggers the control device to activate the second pump.

20. The method of claim 17, wherein the step of transporting the cleansing solution from the receptacle to the reservoir includes activating the first pump for a predetermined time period, wherein activation of the first pump creates vacuum pressure within the reservoir via a third conduit coupled between the reservoir and the first pump, wherein the vacuum pressure suctions the cleansing solution from the receptacle and transports the cleansing solution to the reservoir via the first conduit, wherein the step of supplying the cleansing solution to the receptacle triggers the control device to activate the first pump.
Description



CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application is a continuation-in-part of co-pending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/104,857, filed Apr. 17, 2008, the entirety of which is herein incorporated by reference.

BACKGROUND

[0002] 1. Field of the Invention

[0003] The present invention generally relates to a urine collection device. More particularly, the invention relates to a self-cleansing portable urine collection device.

[0004] 2. Description of Related Art

[0005] Millions of people worldwide are afflicted with problems of urinary incontinence and the need to urinate in difficult circumstances. The economic costs and human suffering associated with these distressing conditions are extremely high. Urine collection devices have been extensively studied in conjunction with bedridden and incontinent individuals. Bedpans, diapers and catherization devices are generally utilized for those confined to beds for reasons of illness and disabilities. All of these practices, however, have their drawbacks in view of suitable comfort and sanitary practices. Bedpan positioning is often difficult and urine collection is often not complete. Diapers are costly, time consuming to attach, and continued usage often leads to skin rashes, chaffing discomfort, and potential infections. Catherization devices are associated with a host of medical problems, particularly urinary tract infections and urethral erosions.

[0006] Another class of devices that has been developed more recently includes urine collection devices that employ urine liquid pumps to pump liquid from a collection receptacle to a collection reservoir. The pumps are effective in pumping liquids, but are incapable of providing the required airflows to completely purge urine from the surfaces of the collection receptacle, tubing, and pump internals of the collection device. Consequently, the incomplete removal of urine contributes to the probable buildup of precipitates resulting from the evaporation of urine residuals between device usages. This in turn creates system maintainability issues and undesirable odor and bacterial control concerns.

[0007] Typically, urine contains about 96 percent water and about 4 percent solids in solution. About half of the solids consist of urea ((NH.sub.2).sub.2CO), while the remainder of the solids includes chloride, sodium, potassium, nitrogen, ketosteroids, phosphate, sulfur, ammonia, creatinine, and uric acid. Without some form of pretreatment, many of the constituents of urine will decompose at room temperature, resulting in the discharge of odiferous gases and providing conditions that contribute to the growth of bacteria. In particular, urea decomposes resulting in the formation of ammonia and carbon dioxide, and a significant amount of solids precipitate out of solution resulting in the fouling of urine collection equipment. It is unlikely that a periodic flushing of the collection device with a cleansing solution would be effective in the removal of these odiferous precipitate deposits once they are allowed to form.

[0008] Thus, there exists a need for a self-cleansing portable urine collection device that disinfects surfaces within the collection device and prevents bacterial growth within the collected urine, thereby reducing urine odors and system failures and maintenance expenses relating to these failures.

SUMMARY

[0009] Embodiments of the present invention provide a self-cleansing portable urine collection device and a method of collecting urine in a self-cleansing portable urine collection device. The illustrative examples of the present invention reduce undesirable odors and system failures caused by bacterial growth resulting from a buildup of urine precipitates within a urine collection device.

[0010] In one aspect of the invention, a self-cleansing portable urine collection device is provided. The urine collection device includes a housing containing a urine collection receptacle, a cleansing container, and a reservoir. The urine collection receptacle is movable between a stored position, in which the receptacle is stored within the housing, and a use position, in which the receptacle is positioned outside of the housing and configured to collect urine from a user. The cleansing container contains a cleansing solution and is configured to supply the cleansing solution to the receptacle when in the stored position. The reservoir is fluidly coupled to the receptacle and adapted to receive the urine and the cleansing solution collected by the receptacle. A vacuum suction pump is disposed within the housing downstream of the reservoir. The vacuum suction pump is coupled to the reservoir and configured to apply a vacuum thereto and further configured to suction the urine and the cleansing solution from the receptacle to the reservoir.

[0011] In a further aspect of the invention, the urine collection device includes a housing access door, a second pump configured to transfer the cleansing solution from the cleansing container to the receptacle when the receptacle is in the stored position, and a control device coupled to the first and second pumps configured to provide automatic activation and deactivation of the first and second pumps.

[0012] In yet a further aspect of the invention, a method of collecting urine in a self-cleansing portable urine collection device is provided. The method includes opening the housing access door, moving the receptacle to the use position, collecting urine from the user within the receptacle, and transferring the urine from the receptacle to the reservoir via suction applied through a first conduit. The method further includes positioning the receptacle in the stored position, closing the housing access door, supplying the cleansing solution from the cleansing container to the receptacle via a second conduit, and transferring the cleansing solution from the receptacle to the reservoir via suction applied through the first conduit thereby flushing any residual urine within the collection device to the reservoir.

[0013] Further objects, features and advantages of this invention will become readily apparent to persons skilled in the art after a review of the following description, with reference to the drawings and claims that are appended to and form a part of this specification.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0014] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a urine collection device in accordance with the teachings of the present invention;

[0015] FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the urine collection device, showing the housing access door in an open position and the receptacle moved into a use position, and additionally showing the top cover apart from the housing and a side panel completely removed from the housing;

[0016] FIG. 3 is a top view of the urine collection device, shown with the top cover removed;

[0017] FIG. 4 is a partial side view of the urine collection device with a side panel removed therefrom, showing with the receptacle in a stored position;

[0018] FIG. 5 is an enlarged perspective view of a reservoir cap in accordance with the teachings of the present invention;

[0019] FIG. 6 is a perspective view of a reservoir in accordance with the teachings of the present invention;

[0020] FIGS. 7a and 7b are, respectively, top and bottom perspective views of a cleansing container in accordance with the teachings of the present invention;

[0021] FIGS. 8a and 8b are functional block diagrams of a urine collection device in accordance with the teachings of the present invention, depicting use and operation of the device; and

[0022] FIG. 9 is a flowchart depicting a method of collecting and treating urine in accordance with one aspect of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0023] Referring now to the drawings, illustrated in FIGS. 1-4 is a self-cleansing portable urine collection device 110 in accordance with the teachings of the present invention. In general, the device 110 includes a housing 112 having a bottom support panel 114, opposing side panels 115 and a rear panel 116, a front housing access door 118, and a top cover 119 including a carrying strap 117. In this embodiment, the side panel 115 depicted in FIG. 1 is removable via the latch 113 to provide access to the interior of the housing 112. The device 110 further includes a urine collection receptacle 124, a cleansing container 126 for containing a cleansing solution, and a collection reservoir 130 disposed therein. A vacuum suction pump 142 is disposed within the housing 112 downstream of the reservoir 130 and is configured to transport fluid from the receptacle 124 to the reservoir 130, as described in further detail below with respect to FIG. 3. The housing access door 118 is selectively moveable between a closed position 120 (FIG. 1) and an open position 122 (FIG. 2) to gain access to the urine collection receptacle 124. Preferably, at least one of the side panels 115 includes viewing windows 108 to observe fluid levels within the cleansing container 126 and the reservoir 130.

[0024] The receptacle 124 is configured to collect urine from a user and is selectively moveable between a stored position (FIGS. 1 and 4), in which the receptacle 124 is contained within the housing 112, and a collection or use position, in which the receptacle 124 is positioned outside of the housing 112 in close proximity to the user's body for collecting urine. FIG. 2 depicts the receptacle 124 being removed from the stored position of FIG. 1 and located in the use position, although a user's body is not depicted in the drawings. Fluid enters the receptacle 124 through an inlet opening 138 and exits the receptacle 124 through an outlet 140. The receptacle 124 may include any suitable urine collection receptacle known in the art, including the receptacle disclosed in application Ser. No. 12/104,857.

[0025] Referring to FIG. 5, an adjustable assembly 150 includes a circular seal plate 156 coupled to a reservoir cap 152 of the reservoir 130 and raised inlet and outlet tubes 154, 155 coupled to the circular seal plate 156. The adjustable assembly 150 may be raised and lowered to facilitate the removal and insertion of the reservoir 130 from engagement with the adjustable assembly 150 for waste disposal and cleansing of the reservoir 130. In this embodiment, a toothed rack 158 is attached to the raised inlet and outlet tubes 154 and 155 and meshes with teeth of a gear 160, which is attached to a rod 162 and rotatable therewith via the knob 164. The rod 162 is supported by the housing 112 or other portions of the device 110 for rotation, but is otherwise fixed in position relative thereto. In this fashion, rotation of the gear 160 results in a vertical upward and downward movement of the adjustable assembly 150. A seal 165, secured to the seal plate 156, provides a leak tight engagement when the assembly 150 is lowered so as to contact the reservoir cap 152 of the reservoir 130. To facilitate the above, the reservoir cap 152 may include a recessed portion into which the seal plate 156 is lowered and received. Obviously, other mechanisms can be utilized to connect the inlet and outlet tubes 154, 155 to the reservoir 130. One such mechanism could employ a threaded coupling or engagement of the seal plate 156 with the cap 152, without use of the rack and gear assembly discussed above.

[0026] The reservoir 130 itself is preferably constructed of a rigid bottle made of polyethylene, polypropylene, or any suitable material which is easily rinsed and cleaned to remove urine residuals. The reservoir 130 is removable from within the housing 112 for emptying thereof. For example, a user accesses the reservoir 130 via the removable housing access panel 115 and removes the reservoir 130 after upward movement of the adjustable assembly 150 by rotation of the knob 164. As shown in FIG. 6, the reservoir 130 includes a reservoir drainage valve 131. After removal of the reservoir 130 from the housing 112, the user adjusts the drainage valve 131 to an open position to drain the fluid from within the reservoir 130. Alternatively, the user may remove the reservoir cap 152 and pour out the fluid from within the reservoir 130. After the reservoir 130 has been emptied, the reservoir may be disposed of and a new reservoir 130 replaced in the housing 112. Alternatively, the reservoir 130 may be cleaned and sanitized and then replaced within the housing 112.

[0027] As illustrated in FIGS. 2 and 3, a conduit 146 couples the receptacle 124 to the reservoir 130 and another conduit 144 couples the reservoir 130 to the vacuum suction pump 142. In this embodiment, the conduit 146 includes two tubular sections 146a and 146b fluidly connected by connect/disconnect fittings or connectors 148 and 149. The tubular section 146a (FIG. 1) of the conduit 146 is an extendable coiled receptacle drainage tube that connects to the outlet 140 of the receptacle 124 and the connector 148 (although not shown connected to the connector 148 in FIG. 4). The tubular section 146b is a tube that connects to the connector 149 and to the raised inlet tube 154 of the assembly 150 (which is coupled to the reservoir 130 via the reservoir cap 152). As shown in FIG. 3, the conduit 144 includes a tube that connects to the raised outlet tube 155 of the assembly 150 (which is coupled to the reservoir 130 via the reservoir cap 152) and to the vacuum suction pump 142.

[0028] As described in further detail below, the vacuum suction pump 142 is configured to suction the effluent air flow from the reservoir 130 via the raised outlet tube 155 and the conduit 144, placing the reservoir 130 under vacuum pressure. As a result of the vacuum pressure within the reservoir 130, the urine and cleansing solution fluids from the receptacle 124 are suctioned and transferred to the reservoir 130 via the conduit 146 and the raised inlet tube 154. The effluent airflow from the vacuum suction pump 142 is discharged into the ambient air via an air discharge tube 147 (FIG. 3). By positioning the vacuum suction pump 142 downstream of the reservoir 130, the vacuum suction pump 142 pumps only air as opposed to moving fluid through the pump as disclosed, e.g., in application Ser. No. 12/104,857. The downstream positioning of the vacuum suction pump 142, relative to the reservoir 130, also results in an increase in liquid flow rates and a reduction in the contamination of the internals of the vacuum suction pump 142 with urine residuals. The vacuum suction pump 142 may be, for example, a diaphragm pump, a piston pump, or any other suitable positive displacement pump. A diaphragm pump with an unrestricted liquid flow rate of greater than about 600 cc/min is one such preferred pump.

[0029] In this embodiment, the connectors 148 and 149 facilitate the removal of the receptacle 124 and its attached coiled receptacle drainage tube 146a for replacement or cleaning purposes. The receptacle drainage tube 146a is pliable and flexible and preferably made of a thermoplastic material that is biased in a coiled form by the elastic memory of the thermoplastic material, so as to be generally self-retracting. The receptacle drainage tube 146a remains in its coiled form when the receptacle 124 is contained within the housing 112 in the stored position. Uncoiling the receptacle drainage tube 146a into its extended form allows the user to conveniently position the receptacle 124 in the use position. The self-retracting feature of the receptacle drainage tube 146a allows for minimizing the storage volume of the receptacle 124 and the attached receptacle drainage tube 146a when the receptacle 124 is in the stored position.

[0030] Preferably, the receptacle drainage tube 146a measures about 40 inches in length in its extended form to assist the user with positioning of the receptacle 124 before urinating. The internal diameter of the receptacle drainage tube 146a is preferably less than about 6 mm to minimize the quantity of residual urine that the vacuum suction pump 142 is generally incapable of removing without the flushing of a cleansing solution. Additionally, a screen filter may be situated over the outlet 140 to prevent particulates greater than about 40 microns from exiting the receptacle 124 and entering the receptacle drainage tube 146a.

[0031] As illustrated in FIG. 4, the cleansing container 126 is disposed within the housing 112 between the reservoir 130 and the rear panel 116 of the housing 112. As noted above, the cleansing container 126 contains a cleansing solution for flushing or purging urine residuals from the collection device 110 that tend to adhere to the internal surfaces of the collection device 110 after urine has been collected. In this embodiment, a cleansing solution pump 166 (FIG. 7b) is configured to transport the cleansing solution from the cleansing container 126 to the receptacle 124 via the conduit 168 and the cleansing solution discharge nozzle 128 when the receptacle 124 is in the stored position (FIG. 4). As depicted in FIG. 7b, the cleansing solution pump 166 is externally attached to the bottom of the cleansing container 126 by any suitable means in the art. In an alternate embodiment, the cleansing solution pump 166 may separate from the cleansing container 126 or may be a miniature pump submerged within the cleansing solution in the cleansing solution container 126. A cleansing solution pump cover 183 provides support for the cleansing container 126.

[0032] In this embodiment, the cleansing solution pump 166 draws cleansing solution from the cleansing container 126 through the pump inlet 167, that extends into the cleansing container 126, and pumps the cleansing solution into the conduit 168 through the pump outlet 169. The conduit 168 includes two tubular sections 168a and 168b fluidly connected by the composite connect/disconnect fittings or connectors 170 (FIGS. 7a-b) and 171 (FIG. 3). As shown in FIGS. 7a-b, the tubular section 168a of the conduit 168 is a tube that connects to the pump outlet 169 and to the connector 170. The cleansing solution exits the tubular section 168a from the outlet or male plug 187 of the connector 170, which fits correspondingly within a female plug of the connector 171. The cleansing solution pump power supply wire connector 173 (which connects to the pump power supply wire 172) also forms part of the composite pump power and fluid connector 170.

[0033] As shown in FIG. 3, the tubular section 168b of the conduit 168 is a tube that connects to the connector 171 and to the cleansing solution discharge nozzle 128. The cleansing solution is thus conveyed from the cleansing container 126 to the receptacle 124 via the cleansing solution pump 166, the conduit 168, and the cleansing solution discharge nozzle 128. The composite connectors 170 and 171 facilitate the removal/insertion of the cleansing container 126 for refilling the cleansing container 126 with cleansing solution.

[0034] The cleansing solution pump 166 may be a diaphragm pump, rotating vane, or any other suitable pump. Power to the cleansing solution pump 166 is supplied via the pump power supply wire 172 which terminates in the pump power connector 173. The cleansing container 126 includes a cap 174, and the cap 174 preferably includes a one way vent 175 which serves to prevent spillage of the cleansing solution within the housing 112 of the collection device 110 while also allowing air to enter into the cleansing container 126 as cleansing solution is dispensed into the receptacle 124 so as to avoid a vacuum condition within the cleansing container 126. The vent 175 may be constructed of a self-sealing slit within a silicon rubber elastomer polymer.

[0035] The cleansing container 126 is preferably a bottle formed of polyethylene, polypropylene, or any other suitable material, and preferably has a capacity of around 600 cc. A volume of 600 cc should allow for about 24 to about 30 flushes of the cleansing solution at about 20-25 cc per flush. The average urination is approximately 300 cc. Therefore, assuming a cleansing solution flush volume of around 20 cc for each urination, a reservoir 130 with a volume of about 1,250 cc should be adequate to contain an individual user's output for about 12 to about 15 hours.

[0036] The cleansing solution contained within the cleansing container 126 preferably contains bactericidal/deodorizing chemicals, which may be conveniently made up by dissolving tableted, crystal, powder, or liquid forms of the chemicals in water. For example, tablets or powder of potassium persulfate (i.e., Oxone.TM. Dupont) or acetic acid, dissolved in water, would serve to deodorize and inhibit bacterial growth. A variety of benign acidic agents may be employed as an active agent. As used herein, the term benign acidic agent is employed to designate a mixture of one or more conventional acids that are safe to handle, safe to the user, innocuous to the elements of the system in which they are used, and not harmful and nontoxic to the environment. By way of example, the following may be used: carbon based acids, such as citric acid, tartaric acid, polyacrylic acid, water soluble copolymers of acrylic acid, poly(maleic anhydride), water soluble copolymers of maleic anhydride, and various mixtures thereof. Other possible bactericidal agents include, but are not limited to, sodium perborate and sodium bisulfate. Tableted forms of the chemical formulations can also be added to the reservoir 130 prior to the introduction of urine into the reservoir 130. For example, a tablet containing approximately 2-3 grams of Oxone.TM. should be sufficient to disinfect, deodorize, and acidify 1 liter of urine. The chemically treated urine can then be transferred to a waste disposal location at the user's convenience.

[0037] As illustrated in FIGS. 2 and 3, a power source 180, e.g., a suitable battery pack or energy storage device, is provided within the housing 112 to drive the pumps 142 and 166. Preferably, a rechargeable battery pack, ranging from about 12-24 volts, is employed to energize the pumps 142 and 166 and should last several days before needing recharging. For the latter purpose, the top cover 119, or alternatively the housing rear panel 116, preferably includes a battery recharging socket 182 (FIG. 2) configured to connect to an external power source to recharge the battery pack 180.

[0038] The collection device 110 may be operated in manual or automatic mode. As shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, the collection device 110 includes a keypad or control panel 186 in communication with a printed circuit control board 188. The control panel 186 preferably includes a power switch 184 for powering the collection device 110 on and off. The term "switch" used herein may include a pushbutton, dial, or any suitable means known in the art for adjusting the operation of the device 110. Additionally, the control panel 186 preferably includes a manual operation switch and an automatic operation switch. Alternatively, the device may be pre-programmed to operate in either the manual mode or the automatic mode such that the control panel 186 includes only a manual operation switch (if the collection device 110 is pre-programmed to operate in the automatic mode once powered on) or only an automatic operation switch (if the collection device 110 is pre-programmed to operate in the manual mode once powered on).

[0039] In this embodiment, the collection device 110 is pre-programmed to operate in manual mode and thus the automatic operation switch is denoted as reference numeral 185 in FIGS. 1 and 2. In manual mode, the vacuum suction pump 142 and the cleansing solution pump 166 are activated manually by switching at least one switch associated with at least one of the pumps 142, 166.

[0040] For example, when the user feels the urge to urinate, the user powers the collection device 110 ON by adjusting the ON/OFF switch 184, opens the housing access door 118 and extends the receptacle 124 in the use position. The user then activates the vacuum suction pump 142 by adjusting a switch 189 associated therewith to the ON position and the user begins urinating. The vacuum suction pump 142 places the reservoir 130 under vacuum pressure, which draws the urine through the collection device 110, emptying the receptacle 124. The urine is drawn out of the receptacle 124 through the receptacle outlet 140 and enters the inlet of the receptacle drainage tube 146a. The urine then passes through receptacle drainage tube 146a, through the tube 146b, and into the reservoir 130. After the user urinates, the user returns the receptacle 124 to the stored position (FIG. 4) and deactivates the vacuum suction pump 142 by adjusting the switch 189 to the OFF position.

[0041] The user then activates the cleansing solution pump 166 by adjusting a switch 191 associated therewith to the ON position to introduce the cleansing solution into the receptacle 124. The vacuum suction pump 142 is reactivated to flush the cleansing solution through the collection device 110. The vacuum suction pump 142 is reactivated by adjusting the switch 189 to the ON position for a predetermined time period corresponding with a predetermined volume of cleansing solution to be supplied to the receptacle 124 for each flush, as well as the flush rate of the cleansing solution pump 166. For example, a cleansing solution pump 166 delivering cleansing solution at a rate of around 300 cc/min requires around 4 seconds to deliver around 20 cc of the cleansing solution.

[0042] After the predetermined time period has passed, the user deactivates the cleansing solution pump 166 by adjusting the switch 191 to the OFF position. The user allows the vacuum suction pump 142 to run a short period of time after deactivating the cleansing solution pump 166 to ensure that the suction pump 142 sufficiently purges most of the fluid, including nearly all of the urine residuals from within the collection device 110, into the reservoir 130. The vacuum suction pump 142 is then deactivated by adjusting the switch 189 to the OFF position and the collection device is powered OFF, via the switch 184, until the next time the user needs to urinate.

[0043] While the above method discloses manual operation of the collection device 110, the coordinated action of the two pumps 142 and 166 could be effectuated by automatic operation. For example, as further depicted in FIG. 2, the collection device 110 includes a printed circuit control board 188 in conjunction with at least one electronic sensor, as discussed in further detail below.

[0044] As shown in FIG. 2, the collection device 110 includes an electronic sensor 190 capable of detecting the presence of fluid within the receptacle 124. The electronic sensor 190 may include a heat transducer, or an optical, resistivity or conductivity device. In this embodiment, the electronic sensor 190 is located near the bottom inner surface 134 of the receptacle 124 to detect even a small quantity of fluid left within the cavity 136 of the receptacle. Alternatively, the electronic sensor 190 may be disposed near the inlet opening 138 of the receptacle 124 to detect fluid entering the receptacle 124.

[0045] In this embodiment, when the user feels the urge to urinate, the user powers the collection device 110 ON by adjusting the ON/OFF switch 184, adjusts the operation mode to automatic via the automatic operation switch 185, opens the housing access door 118, positions the receptacle 124 in the use position and begins to urinate. The sensor 190 detects the presence of urine within the receptacle 124 and transmits a start signal to the printed circuit control board 188 to activate the vacuum suction pump 142. The vacuum suction pump 142 serves to remove urine from the receptacle 124 and dry out the receptacle 124. Following urination, the user returns the receptacle 124 to the stored position (FIG. 4). After the bulk of the urine is removed from the receptacle 124, the sensor 190 triggers the deactivation of the vacuum suction pump 142, i.e., the sensor 190 transmits a stop signal to the printed circuit control board 188 to deactivate the vacuum suction pump 142 when the sensor 190 no longer detects the presence of fluid within the receptacle 124.

[0046] The cleansing solution pump 166 is then activated for a predetermined time period to pump a predetermined quantity of cleansing solution from the cleansing container 126 into the receptacle 124. The sensor 190 detects the cleansing solution within the receptacle 124 and transmits a start signal to the printed circuit board 188 to reactivate the vacuum suction pump 142. While the cleansing solution pump 166 supplies the cleansing solution to the receptacle 124, the vacuum suction pump 142 serves to remove the cleansing solution from the receptacle 124, to dry out the receptacle 124, and purge the cleansing solution through the collection device 110 to rid the collection device internal surfaces of urine residuals and thus prevent precipitates and resulting bacteria from forming.

[0047] After the cleansing solution is removed from the receptacle 124 and flushed through the collection device 110, the sensor 190 no longer detects a presence of fluid within the receptacle 124 and triggers the deactivation of the vacuum suction pump 142. The deactivation of the vacuum suction pump 142 may, in part, be triggered by a timer within the control panel 186. For example, the vacuum suction pump 142 may continue to run for a predetermined period of time after the sensor 190 no longer detects the presence of fluid within the receptacle 124 to ensure that the vacuum suction pump 142 sufficiently purges most of the fluid, including nearly all of the urine residuals, from within the collection device 110 and receptacle drainage tube 146a into the reservoir 130.

[0048] The collection device 110 may further include an electronic sensor 192 capable of detecting the opening and closing of the housing access door 118. In this embodiment, when the user opens the housing access door 118, the sensor 192 transmits a start signal to the printed circuit control board 188 to activate the vacuum suction pump 142. The vacuum suction pump 142 is therefore activated before any urine is even detected within the receptacle 124 and creates a vacuum which draws ambient air through the collection device 110. The orifice 132 provides a passageway through which ambient air is drawn into the collection device 110. This is particularly advantageous in the case of female users, where the inlet opening 138 of the receptacle 124 is positioned against the user's body to limit the suction of the vacuum suction pump 142. As the user urinates, the vacuum created by the vacuum suction pump 142 draws the urine through the collection device 110.

[0049] Preferably in this embodiment, the continued activation of the vacuum suction pump 142 is triggered, in part, by the housing access door 118 remaining in the open position 122, and also, in part, by the sensor 190 simultaneously detecting the presence of urine within the receptacle 124. Following urination, the user returns the receptacle 124 to the stored position and closes the housing access door 118. Deactivation of the vacuum suction pump 142 may be triggered, in part, by the moving of the housing access door 118 to the closed position 120, wherein the sensor 192 transmits a stop signal to the printed circuit control board 188 to deactivate the vacuum suction pump 142. This may happen immediately after detecting the closing of the housing access door 118. Alternatively, the control panel 186 may include a timer such that after the closing of the housing access door 118, the printed circuit control board 188 does not deactivate the vacuum suction pump 142 until a predetermined period of time has passed. The deactivation of the vacuum suction pump 142 may also be triggered, in part, by the absence of fluid within the receptacle 124, wherein the sensor 190 transmits a stop signal to the printed circuit control board 186 to deactivate the vacuum suction pump 142, either with or without a timer to allow sufficient time to remove urine from within the receptacle drainage tube 146a.

[0050] The cleansing solution pump 166 is then activated for a predetermined time period to pump a predetermined quantity of cleansing solution from the cleansing container 126 into the receptacle 124. Preferably, the cleansing solution pump 166 is also activated automatically after collection of urine and closing of the housing access door 118. Since the cleansing solution pump 166 supplies the cleansing solution to the receptacle 124, and eventually the entire collection device 110, to flush and eliminate residual urine within the internal surfaces of the collection device 110, the cleansing solution pump 166 is preferably activated after urine has actually entered and passed through the collection device 110. Therefore, activation of the cleansing solution pump 166 is preferably triggered after a recent collection and transportation of urine through the collection device 110.

[0051] For example, since the positioning of the receptacle 124 into the stored position, followed by the closing of the housing access door 118, are indications of recent urination, activation of the cleansing solution pump 166 may be triggered, in part, by the detection of the receptacle 124 being positioned in the stored position, and, in part, by the detection of the housing access door 118 closing to the closed position 120. The receptacle 124 is in the stored position, i.e., in close proximity to the cleansing solution discharge nozzle 128, in order for the cleansing solution pump 166 to supply the cleansing solution from the cleansing container 126 to the receptacle 124. The housing access door 118 is closed to ensure that during flushing of the cleansing solution, the cleansing solution remains within the housing 112 of the collection device 110, therefore providing an efficient, user-safe automatic self-cleansing portable urine collection device 110.

[0052] The sensor 190 is preferably capable of detecting not only the presence of a fluid within the receptacle 124, but also the positioning of the receptacle 124 between the stored position and the use position. Alternatively, a separate sensor may be provided to detect the positioning of the receptacle 124. In one embodiment, upon the detection of the receptacle 124 being returned to the stored position and upon the detection of the housing access door 118 being moved to the closed position 120, the respective sensors 190 and 192 transmit start signals to the printed circuit control board 188 to activate the cleansing solution pump 166. Thus, activation of the cleansing solution pump 166 is triggered, in part, by the receptacle 124 being returned to the stored position and the housing access door 118 being moved to the closed position 120.

[0053] In addition, the activation of the cleansing solution pump 166 may also be triggered, in part, by the passing of a predetermined time period. For example, after detection of the receptacle 124 in the stored position and the housing access door 118 in the closed position 120, the cleansing solution pump 166 may not be activated until a predetermined period of time has passed. This time condition is communicated to the printed circuit control board 188 by a timer. Thus, since the collection of urine within the receptacle 124 triggers activation of the vacuum suction pump 142, a predetermined time period between the detection of the receptacle 124 being positioned to the stored position and/or the housing access door 118 moving to the closed position 120 and the activation of the cleansing solution pump 166, allows the vacuum suction pump 142 to run and remove at least most of the urine within the receptacle 124 before flushing the cleansing solution into the receptacle 124.

[0054] As the cleansing solution is supplied to the receptacle 124, the sensor 190 detects the presence of fluid (i.e., the cleansing solution) within the receptacle 124 and transmits a start signal to the printed circuit control board 188 to activate the vacuum suction pump 142. The vacuum suction pump 142 draws the cleansing solution through the collection device 110, from the receptacle 124 to the reservoir 130, to purge the internal surfaces of the collection device 110 of urine residuals and thus prevent precipitates and resulting bacteria from forming.

[0055] Preferably, the printed circuit control board 188 is programmed to activate the cleansing solution pump 166 for a predetermined time period, which corresponds with the predetermined volume of cleansing solution to be supplied to the receptacle 124 for each flush and the flush rate of the cleansing solution pump 166. Further, deactivation of the cleansing solution pump 166 may be triggered before the predetermined period of time has passed, for example, by the opening of the housing access door 118 and/or the removing of the receptacle 124 from the stored position.

[0056] After the cleansing solution has been withdrawn from the receptacle 124 and purged through the collection device 110, the sensor 190 triggers the deactivation of the vacuum suction pump 142 based upon the detection of an absence of fluid within the receptacle 124. The deactivation of the vacuum suction pump 142 may be triggered, alternatively, or partly, by the passing of a predetermined time period. For example, after the sensor 190 has detected an absence of fluid within the receptacle 124, the vacuum suction pump 142 may not be deactivated until a predetermined period of time has passed. Via this time condition, it is ensured that the vacuum suction pump 142 sufficiently purges most of the fluid, including nearly all of the urine residuals, from within the collection device 110 into the reservoir 130.

[0057] The collection device 110 preferably includes an alarm which warns the user when the level of fluid with the reservoir 130 reaches a predetermined reservoir capacity and thus warns the user to empty the reservoir 130. Referring to FIG. 6, a reservoir fluid level measuring apparatus 153 is coupled with the printed circuit control board 188 to sound the alarm upon an indication that the volume of fluid within the reservoir 130 is approaching the predetermined reservoir capacity. In this embodiment, the reservoir fluid level measuring apparatus 153 includes a fluid level sensor float 161 contained within a float containment tube 163 attached to the reservoir 130 by any suitable means known in the art. The sensor float 161 is configured to rise within the containment tube 163 as the level of fluid within the reservoir 130 rises.

[0058] The reservoir fluid level measuring apparatus 153 further includes an electronic support board 159 and a plurality of optical liquid level sensors 157 attached thereto and configured to transmit light beams. The electronic support board 159 may be attached to the reservoir 130 or an adjacent housing panel 115 by any suitable means in the art. As the sensor float 161 rises within the containment tube 163, it interrupts the light beams transmitted from the optical liquid level sensors 157. The interruption of the various light beams transmitted from the liquid level sensors 157 serves to indicate the fluid level within the reservoir 130 to the printed circuit control board 188 of the control panel 186. Thus, upon the detection of the volume of fluid within the reservoir 130 approaching the predetermined reservoir capacity, the sensors 157 communicate this information to the printed circuit control board 188 to sound the alarm. Alternatively, other level sensing mechanisms could be used, e.g., the sensor float 161 could include a magnet, whose magnetic field is sensed by sensors positioned along the electronic support board as the float 161 rises with the fluid level.

[0059] Referring to FIGS. 7a-b, the collection device 110 preferably includes a cleansing container fluid level measuring apparatus 176 coupled with the printed circuit control board 188 to sound an alarm upon an indication that the volume of cleansing solution within the cleansing container 126 is approaching a predetermined low level to warn the user that the cleansing container 126 needs refilling. In this embodiment, the cleansing container fluid level measuring apparatus 176 includes a fluid level sensor float 177 contained within a float containment tube 178 attached to the cleansing container 126 by any suitable means known in the art. The sensor float 177 is configured to fall within the containment tube 178 as the level of fluid within the cleansing container 126 falls.

[0060] The cleansing container fluid level measuring apparatus 176 further includes an electronic support board 179 and at least one optical liquid level sensor 181 attached thereto and configured to transmit a light beam. The electronic support board 179 may be attached to the cleansing container 126 or an adjacent housing panel 115 by any suitable means known in the art. As the sensor float 177 falls within the containment tube 178, it interrupts the light beam transmitted from the optical liquid level sensors 181. The interruption of the light beam transmitted from the liquid level sensors 181 serves to indicate the fluid level within the cleansing container 126 to the printed circuit control board 188 of the control panel 186. Thus, upon the detection of the volume of fluid within the cleansing container 126 approaching the predetermined low level, the sensor 181 communicates this information to the printed circuit control board 188 to sound the alarm. A magnet based system, as previously discussed could also be alternatively incorporated as part of the fluid level measuring apparatus 176.

[0061] As provided above with respect to FIG. 5, the reservoir cap 152 of the adjustable assembly includes inlet and outlet tubes 154 and 155. Preferably, these tubes 154 and 155 are centrally located on the cap 152 opposite each other in a lengthwise orientation. The orientation of the tubes 154 and 155 preferably lessens the risk of spillage of fluid from within the reservoir 130 into the interior of the housing 112 in the event the collection device 110 is placed on its side, on either of the panels 115. A filter element with an absorbent material, such as charcoal, may be inserted within the conduit 144 to remove entrained liquid droplets from the airflow prior to entry into the vacuum suction pump 142 to prevent liquid from contacting the internal surfaces of the vacuum suction pump 142.

[0062] In the unlikely event that urine droplets or liquid are transported into the conduit 144 and the vacuum suction pump 142, periodic cleansing of these internal surfaces downstream of the reservoir cap 152 may be performed by inserting a temporary connecting bridge or shunting element that connects the conduits 146b and 144. With this bridging or shunting element in place, the introduction of the cleansing solution into the receptacle 124 will facilitate flushing of all internal surfaces potentially contacting urine with cleansing solution. This procedure allows for all internal surfaces to be periodically cleansed from potential urine residual contaminants as a maintenance procedure that will contribute to user-friendly operation.

[0063] FIGS. 8a and 8b illustrate the flow of urine and the cleansing solution through the collection device 110. Referring to FIG. 8a, urine and air enter the collection device 110 at the receptacle 124 (FIG. 8a). The vacuum suction pump 142 (downstream of the reservoir 130) creates a vacuum pressure within the reservoir 130, which draws urine from the receptacle 124 through the conduit 146 (i.e., through the receptacle drainage tube 146a and the tube 146b) and into the reservoir 130. Referring to FIG. 8b, the cleansing solution pump 166 then transports cleansing solution from the cleansing container 126 to the receptacle 124 via the conduit 168 (i.e., through tubes 168a and 168b). The vacuum suction pump 142 transports the cleansing solution from the receptacle 124 through the conduit 146 (i.e., through the receptacle drainage tube 146a and the tube 146b) and into the reservoir 130. Air pumped into the reservoir 130 is discharged through the outlet tube 155, through the conduit 144, through the vacuum suction pump 142 and the through the conduit 147 into the surrounding air. The urine and cleansing solution mixture remaining within the reservoir 130 may be disposed of by emptying the reservoir 130.

[0064] FIG. 9 illustrates the method of operation of the self-cleansing portable urine collection device 110 in accordance with the teachings of the present invention. In this example, the method includes the step 200 of providing a urine collection device 110 having a housing 112; a housing access door 118; a urine collection receptacle 124 configured to collect urine from a user; a cleansing container 126 configured to supply a cleansing solution to the receptacle 124; a reservoir 130 configured to receive urine and cleansing solution collected by the receptacle 124; a vacuum suction pump 142 configured to transport the urine from the receptacle 124 to the reservoir 130; a cleansing solution pump 166 configured to transport the cleansing solution from the cleansing container 126 to the receptacle 124; and a control device associated with the pumps 142, 166 configured to provide automatic activation and deactivation of the pumps 142, 166.

[0065] The method further comprises the step 202 of opening the housing access door 118, positioning the receptacle 124 in a use position, i.e., in close proximity to the user's body (step 204), and collecting urine from the user within the receptacle 124 (step 206). The method further comprises transporting the urine from the receptacle 124 to the reservoir 130 (step 208) via a conduit 146; returning the receptacle 124 to the stored position within the housing 112 (step 210) and closing the housing access door 118 (step 212). The method further comprises supplying the cleansing solution from the cleansing container 126 to the receptacle 124 (step 214) via a conduit 168 and transporting the cleansing solution from the receptacle 124 to the reservoir 130 (step 216) via the conduit 146, thereby flushing any residual urine within the collection device 110 to the reservoir 130.

[0066] Transporting the urine from the receptacle 124 to the reservoir 130 (step 208) includes activating the vacuum suction pump 142 for a predetermined time period, wherein opening the housing access door 118 (step 202) and/or collecting the urine within the receptacle 124 (step 206) triggers the control device (i.e., the printed circuit control board 188) to activate the vacuum suction pump 142. Supplying the cleansing solution from the cleansing container 126 to the receptacle 124 includes activating the cleansing solution pump 166 for a predetermined time period, wherein returning the receptacle 124 to the housing 112 (step 210) and/or closing the housing access door 118 (step 212) triggers the control device (i.e., the printed circuit control board 188) to activate the cleansing solution pump 166.

[0067] As a person skilled in the art will readily appreciate, the above description is meant as an illustration of implementation of the principles of this invention. This description is not intended to limit the scope or application of this invention in that the invention is susceptible to modification, variation and change, without departing from spirit of this invention, as defined in the following claims.

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