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Solar Powered Vaccine Refrigerator For Remote Vaccine Delivery

IB-2013-079

APPLICATIONS OF TECHNOLOGY:

ADVANTAGES:

ABSTRACT:

Researchers at Berkeley Lab have developed a low cost, sustainable, durable, portable vaccine refrigerator powered by solar panels to facilitate delivery of vaccines to the most remote areas of the world, even those lacking reliable electricity. The device, light enough to be carried by two people or transported by bicycle, maintains uniform vaccine temperatures within the desirable 2°C - 8°C range, without risk of freezing, for up to 5 days on a single full charge, to ensure effective vaccines arrive at regional stores, community health centers and the last-mile delivery loop, typically reached by bicycle or on foot from the health center.

The device integrates a thermoelectric heat pump alongside high-density vaccine vial packaging to maximize delivery and maintain ideal temperature while allowing rapid access to vaccines. The cooling system uses non-toxic materials; no refrigerants are required. No batteries are needed beyond data logging functions. The refrigerator’s modular design is easy to service by untrained staff and can be configured to suit different capacity requirements, travel distances, and ambient temperatures.

Despite all-time low vaccine prices, 26 million children worldwide are unimmunized or under-immunized and at risk for disabling and deadly communicable diseases. In fact, two million preventable deaths occur annually in children under five due to lack of immunizations. Increasing the frequency of vaccine distribution has not addressed this problem because, due to lack of electricity or medical facilities, vaccines often aren’t maintained at their required temperate range for effectiveness while in route. Available vaccine refrigerators are too costly and complex and lack adequate holdover times and temperature controls. Current solar powered refrigerators are expensive and too heavy to transport to remote areas. The Berkeley Lab vaccine refrigerator overcomes these limitations to meet the needs of communities in the developing world.

DEVELOPMENT STAGE: Initial model testing demonstrated holdover time exceeding World Health Organization (WHO) performance, quality and safety (PQS) requirement: approximately 4.5 days in a hot ambient temperature (43°C) and approximately 5.5 days in a temperate zone (32°C). Future developments will include electronic logging of vaccine temperatures, refrigerator performance parameters, and GPS travel coordinates. Data telemetry will facilitate remote monitoring of each deployed unit.

STATUS:  Patent pending.  Available for licensing or collaborative research.

REFERENCE NUMBER: IB-2013-079

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