Hospitals in the developed world kill microbes with autoclaves that sterilize medical instruments with heat and pressure, but clinics and hospitals in the developing world often cannot afford autoclaves. Remote clinics rely on kerosene powered autoclaves or simply boil medical tools.
MIT’s Little Devices group, a D-series of classes and labs spent three years building the SolarClave, an affordable device that sterilizes medical equipment.
The SolarClave is less expensive and more effective than the typically used kerosene or electric sterilizer, as it requires no fuel, and can be easily built and repaired with materials readily available.
The Little Devices group tested the SolarClave in Nicaragua with the help of local nurse practitioners and other health care providers in order to see how it fared in remote locations.
This prototype consisted of a foiled covered reflector that heated a boiler with tubing that transported steam to a sterilizing container nearby.
This field test revealed that the foil covering the parabolic reflector was prone to damage and hard to replace with locally available materials and that the tubing that carried the steam frequently leaked and easily became damaged.
The design was simplified. A regular pressure cooker that can be filled with unsanitary medical equipment replaced the tubing system, and the pressure cooker was placed above the reflector. The reflector replaced the foil and consists of small group of pocket mirrors that can be found easily in Nicaragua.
The new SolarClave reaches 250 F at 15 psi, the recommended heat and pressure levels, within an hour. The sterilization cycle then takes approximately 20 minutes.The SolarClave also adheres to the standards of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
After the device has been completely tested in Nicaragua, Anna Young, leader of the SolarClave project believes that the project will head to other areas within Central America and Africa.
The SolarClave will help prevent infection throughout the developing world by providing a level of sterilization for medical tools that would otherwise be impossible for rural clinics.
– Kasey Beduhn