Immunising vaccines against blackouts

Home Technologist 02 Immunising vaccines against blackouts

Danish students have developed a device to control the refrigeration of vital medication.

Adam Hartmann

HEALTH MAKERS

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Blackouts don’t just plunge everyone into the dark. They also cut the cold chain, with catastrophic consequences for healthcare. Vaccines can become unusable if they are exposed to temperatures above or below a certain range for just a few hours. Such failure, along with other problems like expiration dates, result in the waste of more than 50 per cent of the world’s vaccine stock, according to the World Health Organisation.

Eupry, a start-up company from the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), hopes to change all that. Using an Arduino and a Raspberry Pi, the company has developed a control device equipped with sensors that can be placed inside or on the surface of any refrigerator.

“If it detects an abnormal temperature, the device alerts a technician by mobile phone,” explains company co-founder Adam Hartmann, who is also a master’s student in design and innovation.

Launched at DTU in 2012, the project is receiving support from various organisations, including UNICEF and the Clinton Foundation, which helped transport devices by boat to Nigeria for testing in March 2014. After three test versions, the first commercial model was released this summer.

“The system is a response to a major issue,” says Pascal Bonnabry, head of the pharmacy at the Geneva University Hospitals. “Even so, just alerting someone in the event of a problem doesn’t guarantee that it will be solved. A malfunctioning refrigerator still has to be repaired.”

A whole community of adult “makers”, like Adam Hartmann, Elco Jacobs, Alex Klein and Tyler Freeman, are unleashing their creativity thanks to Raspberry Pi and Arduino boards.

– By Benjamin Keller. With Thomas Pfefferlé and Sara Bandelier

Technologist 02.006

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