A cocoon for premature babies

Home Technologist 04 A cocoon for premature babies

An inexpensive incubator that’s easy to use, ultra-mobile and adapted to disaster zones: James Roberts’ clever invention won the 2014 James Dyson Award international design competition.

Photo of James Roberts demonstrating his MOM prototype to James Dyson

The 45-cm-wide, apple green MOM looks a bit like a futuristic piece of hand luggage. Open the zipper and it’s actually an inflatable incubator designed to save lives in developing countries and conflict zones.

James Roberts, a 23- year-old British design student, got the idea after watching footage of Syria’s civil war.

“More than 150,000 babies are born in refugee camps every year,” he notes. “Of those, 27,500 will die due to the lack of incubators”.

Roberts sold his car to finance the first prototype. His mantra: simplicity. “The incubators that are currently on the market are much too complex because they can do too much. They’re expensive and hard to use. Most of them break down within a couple of weeks”.

MOM, on the other hand, is made from components that are readily available in hardware and computer stores. It has three basic functions: maintaining a 34°C temperature using a ceramic heater and simple fan; regulating humidity; and diffusing blue light to treat jaundice, which is common in preemies.

The machine can run for 24 hours connected to a car battery. It costs less than €320 to manufacture, test, and deliver, vs. about €40,000 for traditional incubators.

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