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Medicine Hardware Technology

Students Invent Revolutionary Solar Sterilizer 98

greenerd writes "Engineering students at Rice University have solved a huge health concern in developing countries by creating a device that uses the sun to sterilize medical instruments. This invention could help prevent the spread of infection and illness in clinics around the world without access to proper sterilization tools."
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Students Invent Revolutionary Solar Sterilizer

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  • by artor3 ( 1344997 ) on Saturday May 07, 2011 @04:43PM (#36058430)

    There are several technologies that have been developed and distributed in the third world by humanitarians. The adjustable eye-glasses, shake-powered water sterilizer, and super-nutritious peanut butter all come to mind. In cases where there is patent protection (the peanut butter, for example) the aid workers simply ignore it.

  • by Scrameustache ( 459504 ) on Saturday May 07, 2011 @04:58PM (#36058502) Homepage Journal

    It's a solar powered hotplate that uses steam. It has a commercial autoclave sitting on the hotplate.

    They didn't invent a sterilizer, they invented a way to power existing ones.

  • Re:Fire? (Score:5, Informative)

    by jd ( 1658 ) <imipak AT yahoo DOT com> on Saturday May 07, 2011 @05:00PM (#36058516) Homepage Journal

    Meh, fire doesn't sterilize that well, and heat can do Bad Things to metal at temperatures high enough to guarantee sterilization.

    As for water, it's not good for rough surfaces (where pockets of infection can easily remain at a lower temperature) and a temperature of 100'C is way too low to kill the really nasty viruses. It's not even hot enough to be that good against some bacteria.

    I'll agree that it's much better than nothing at all. However, even your standard autoclave [] is pretty naff at dealing with the full range of items used in medical facilities, which is why MRSA is so problematic.

    There's also the issue of Strain 121 []. It's not listed (as far as I know) as harmful to humans, but the mere fact that a hyperthermophile exists at all is a concern. It means that we will run into harmful bacteria that autoclaves are incapable of stopping.

  • by Antipater ( 2053064 ) on Sunday May 08, 2011 @03:13PM (#36065246)


    In addition, these students did not even solve the stated problem.

    Fellow Rice senior MechE student here. And actually, they exactly solved the stated problem. Here are some quotes from the document explaining the project we were given when picking senior projects at the beginning of last semester:

    "Problem: To come up with an appropriate design that can link a simple autoclave (shown below) to the a solarthermal device called the capteur soleil"


    "The capteur soleil can provide thermal power but has not been coupled with an autoclave. The goal of this project is to achieve such a coupling. To do this, they will have to experiment with pressurized lines (like the tube which goes from the capteur to the device... in this case the autoclave). They will have to work with some sort of coil (we have several prototypes for inspection) to transfer thermal energy to the autoclave. They also may need to consider some sort of containment system for the autoclave (for cooking, another of our applications, we use the plastic drum with towels as the insulation)."

    You, as some sort of software developer I'm guessing, felt quite insulted when someone insinuated that Gnome + Linux = Ubuntu was child's play. You felt it trivialized the work of a team who spent countless hours modifying code to create a simple, easily-replicated system that nearly anyone could use.

    Likewise, as an engineer, your ignorance of the difficulties of coupling and interface design insult me. If it were so easy, the entire discipline of systems engineering wouldn't exist. This wasn't just putting an autoclave on a hotplate. It was a year of tireless work to create a coupling system that would be easy to install, would transfer heat effectively enough to provide sterilization even under thick cloud cover, and wouldn't fall to pieces the first time someone kicked it.

    You know, this is the second post I've made here on Slashdot. The previous one was defending another Rice senior design project against people claiming it was nothing new, a trivial redesign, etc. So I hope you'll forgive me if I seem a bit annoyed when I say this: seriously, guys, we know what we're doing. If you spot something in an article that looks like a glaring hole in an engineering design, it's probably because the reporter doesn't know enough to include it, and not because we're retarded.

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