KU engineering students design solar-powered sterilizer for doctor in Zimbabwe

KU engineering students design solar-powered sterilizer for doctor in Zimbabwe

Posted 03 July 2011, by Karrey Britt, WellCommons (The World Company), wellcommons.com

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There’s a 5-foot-tall, funnel-shaped metal object being stored this summer in a laboratory on Kansas University’s West Campus.

Ronald Dougherty, professor and chair of the KU Mechanical Engineering Department, explained that it could be life-changing for people in developing countries.

Under his direction, four engineering students designed and built the object to sterilize medical instruments using solar energy. It’s specifically for a doctor who is working in Sanyati, Zimbabwe, where electricity is scarce.

“The students wanted to have an impact on the world. They didn’t want to do another washing machine or something like that. They wanted to do something that would have a big impact on the lives of people,” Dougherty said.

The students — Kayla Dill, Stewart Bernard, Brian Hatesohl and Travis Rowe — worked on the project during the past year as part of a senior design course.

They landed the project because Dougherty and Scott Hoffman, a Honeywell engineer, crossed paths at the right time. Dougherty was looking for class projects and Hoffman was needing assistance to help his friend, Dr. Mark Byler, a medical missionary in Zimbabwe, who was in need of a reliable autoclave.

Hoffman did some research at first, but quickly realized that it would be too time-consuming for him. So, he’s glad the KU students were willing to take on the challenge.

“It’s difficult for us to comprehend how terrible it is over there under the government,” Hoffman said. “If you have a broken leg or need to deliver a baby and there’s no electricity at the moment to sterilize the instruments, you are kind of screwed.”

That’s why Hoffman is passionate about the autoclave project and is funding it. So far, it has cost $1,500.

An autoclave sterilizes instruments by subjecting them to extreme temperatures that viruses, bacteria and other microorganisms can’t survive. To ensure sterilization, instruments must be in the autoclave at temperatures above 285 degrees for at least three hours.

Byler currently uses an autoclave that’s powered by electricity, but it’s spotty and unreliable. Diesel fuel is scarce and costly and there’s no nearby water source suitable to supply the autoclave with hydroelectric power. Byler also requested that it be environmentally friendly, which meant no burning of products like wood. That left solar energy.

Dougherty said the students did a lot of research on solar power and medical applications among other things. He said they never came across another solar-powered autoclave, so it could be the first.

The students’ autoclave is operational, but Dougherty said it needs more testing and fine-tuning, and Hoffman has agreed to continue to fund it. So, Dougherty will be looking for another group of students to work on it during the upcoming school year.

“The main goal is to make sure that it is appropriate for the people over in Zimbabwe. We want to make sure that there are no questions, no issues. That there’s a good manual so they know how to assemble it, repair it and run it, Dougherty said. “We want to make sure it operates as perfectly as possible for them.”

He anticipates they will have one ready to send to Zimbabwe by next May.

Ed Note: Please visit the original site for the photographs accompanying the article.

http://wellcommons.com/groups/wellness/2011/jul/3/ku-engineering-students-design-solar-pow/

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by marshall on September 5, 2011 at 10:15 am

    Exceleent ideas. Am praying for you guys involved that God give you all the wisdom. In fact the instrument is there somewhere all you need is just be there and God will reveal it to you. Do you think we are clever enough to cteate anything? I dont, it is revealed to us. I believe God is ready to reveal to you a new autoclaving system, one of its kind and will help many people in areas with a lot of sinshine and less of hydroelectricity like my country Zimbabwe. I know Dr Byler on a personal level and indeed he is being used of God in a mighty way.
    Marshall

    Reply

  2. Posted by marshall on September 5, 2011 at 10:17 am

    Excellent ideas. Am praying for you guys involved that God give you all the wisdom. In fact the instrument is there somewhere all you need is just be there and God will reveal it to you. Do you think we are clever enough to cteate anything? I dont, it is revealed to us. I believe God is ready to reveal to you a new autoclaving system, one of its kind and will help many people in areas with a lot of sinshine and less of hydroelectricity like my country Zimbabwe. I know Dr Byler on a personal level and indeed he is being used of God in a mighty way.
    Marshall

    Reply

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