This Solar-Powered Shipping Container Can Sterilize Medical Equipment Anywhere


Infection from surgery is a common problem in developing countries, according to a study in the journal Nature. To prevent contamination, a group of researchers at Rice University have developed a mobile shipping container that acts as a sterilization center for surgical tools. 

Inside the container, dubbed the Sterile Box, health workers go through a two-step process for cleaning used medical equipment. First, utensils are washed off in a sink with water and transferred to a drying rack — just like the one you use for your dishes. Once dry, the tools are wrapped in a sterilization cloth and put inside an autoclave, a steam sterilization vestibule that looks a like a pressure cooker. After the autoclave finishes its process, the surgical tools are died and set in a cabinet for future use. 

Rice University

To account for regions with poor water filtration systems, the shipping container connects to a water tank that uses gravel and sand to filter out most impurities. It's designed to not necessitate any power, but the team appended solar panels to the top of the box to provide for the minimal power the sterilization process might need, as well as a way to store extra power. Researchers found that the panels were able to generate enough power to fuel other devices like a cell phone or fan. 

The team has been testing the box on Rice University's campus in Texas. Now, the group plans on taking the Sterile Box to Malawi for further testing.