Talk about “green design to save the world” — Appropriate Technology Collaborative has developed a solar powered refrigerator for vaccines that stands to save millions of lives lost each year due to vaccine-preventable diseases. Not only does the ATC refrigerator provide vital cooling necessary for storing vaccines without using any electricity, but the design is meant to be something that can be built locally, eliminating the need to import expensive technology from other countries. The design is one of the most interesting applicants in this year’s NASA Tech Briefs Create The Future Contest – you can vote for it here!
Storing and distributing vaccines in the developing world is a challenge because refrigeration is needed to preserve them until they are used. Ordinary refrigerators are costly to obtain and to operate, particularly in places where electricity is a rare luxury. The ATC refrigerator does not use electricity or expensive parts to provide this vital cooling:
“The ATC Solar Vaccine Refrigerator is a robust, easy to maintain technology that can be made in the country or region where it is to be used. It is made out of simple materials that can be found in most cities: steel, charcoal and ethanol or methanol. The finished product has no moving parts that need maintenance and it doesn’t use electricity of any kind. One simply places it in sunlight and it freezes. Period. (Note: If the sun doesn’t shine it can run on biofuels)”
The ATC refrigerator addresses a serious public health issue for the developing world. By using local labor to build these refrigerators, these countries do not need to rely on importing expensive foreign technology in order to address the problem. With simple materials that can be obtained locally and no moving parts, it is also a low-cost alternative. And, if the equipment does break down, there are local workers who will be able to repair them and keep them running. So, not only does it provide a solution to an immediate problem, but it also encourages the development of local jobs.
You can learn more, and vote for the solar refrigerator project at the NASA Tech Briefs Create the Future Contest.