A remarkable amount of effort goes into transporting vaccines to people who desperately need them in areas of the world where fancy hospitals and refrigeration are not common. Oftentimes, the “last leg” of the journey proves disappointing, as vaccines can lose efficacy if they are not stored at a consistent and fairly cool temperature. Anurudh Ganesan, a 15-year-old inventor from India, has developed a self-powered solution that could save the day, as well as countless lives. He calls it the “Vaxxwagon,” and it’s earned him a slot as a finalist in the Google Science Fair this year.
The Vaxxwagon is a special refrigeration unit that relies on vapor compression. Ganesan calls it a “No Ice, No Electric” transportation system because it can keep a consistent temperature for hours while being pulled by people or animals. The teen developed the system to be self-powered by energy generated by the wheels it’s mounted on. He first tested it on a treadmill, and later conducted several tests with the Vaxxwagon trailered on a bicycle. In both scenarios, he says it was able to maintain two to eight degrees Celsius (35-46 degrees Fahrenheit), the range of ideal storage temperatures for most vaccines.
Ganesan was inspired to tackle the last-leg vaccine problem because he experienced it as an infant, after his grandparents carried him for 10 miles only to find the sought-after vaccinations had become unusable due to heat exposure. In his case, missing out on the vaccine didn’t cost him his life, but many others aren’t so lucky. Presumably, Ganesan was able to get the needed vaccines on another trip, but some people are too poor or sick to make multiple journeys, so it’s crucial for medical workers to be able to transport vaccines in such a way that they remain effective upon reaching their destination.
The teen inventor is one of 20 Google Science Fair finalists vying for a $50,000 prize. The winners will be announced September 21, 2015.
Lead image via Shutterstock, video via Anurudh Ganesan