Solar-Powered Autoclave Using Nanotechnology for the Resource-Constrained Settings


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Membership level
2010-2011 Team
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Team Name
Project Title
Solar-Powered Autoclave Using Nanotechnology for the Resource-Constrained Settings
Design Challenge
Effective sterilization is essential for combating disease transmission and infection, yet many resource constrained settings lack sterilization technology. NanoSPA is developing a solar-powered autoclave that uses patent-pending nanoparticles to create steam to kill microbes. This technology can help provide clean health care to the 2.6 billion people living in undeveloped conditions.
Design Summary
Team NanoSPA will design a solar-powered autoclave using broadband photothermal nanoparticles to address the problem of ineffective sterilization within resource-constrained settings. The needs for this device are as follows: • No currently available sterilization option is capable of providing the requisite combination of effective sterilization and minimal resource usage • Heat sterilization methods require a constant source of power and their complexity makes them prone to failure in rigorous application • Chemical sterilization methods require a constant supply of toxic chemicals • Soap and water hand washing is insufficient to prevent disease transmission Resource-constrained settings present unique challenges. Consequently, the solar-powered autoclave must adhere to additional constraints unrelated to its ability to sterilize items, which include: • Limited, unreliable, or absent supply of electrical power • Limited engineering expertise available • Harsh environment After consulting experts involved in dental outreach missions, we identified several design objectives which are listed below in order of importance: • Effective sterilization • Safety of operation • Ability to operate solely on solar energy • Low cost • Ease of use • High durability • Efficiency of cycle • Capacity for oral surgical and simple restorative dental packs Our proposed solar-powered autoclave design consists of two main modular components that are connected by tubing: a sterilization vessel that will store the contaminated items and a steam generation module that will house the nanoparticle solution. A light but durable frame will support the entire system, including a Fresnel lens that will concentrate incident sunlight onto the nanoparticle module in order to heat the nanoparticle solution. The heated nanoparticles will generate steam, which will pass through the connecting tube into the sterilization vessel to sterilize the items before returning to the nanoparticle module as condensate. Team NanoSPA is currently developing a prototype and testing it against our design criteria. We constructed a CAD model and performed Finite Element Analysis to determine the best location for placing inlet and outlet holes on the pressure vessel. We also placed the vessel under hydrostatic loading and verified that the air bleed valve leaks at 20 psi, as specified by the manufacturer. We will continue to test the system in Spring 2011 by conducting thermal and sterility testing to verify sterilization as well as assessing mass conservation, durability, and ease of operation.
Chuck and Sharon Fox
2011 Rice Engineering Design Showcase - Grand Prize; 2011 BTB National Global Health Design Competition - Best Poster Award
  • Global Health Technologies
  • Bioengineering
Faculty Advisor 1 - Name
Maria Oden

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