16 year old Anurudh Ganesan from Maryland, USA was recently named one of the winners of this year’s Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes for his creation VAXXWAGON, a zero-electricity system that keeps vaccines at the right temperature during the final stages of transport.
Vaccines generally need to be stored at specific temperatures, often requiring refrigeration or freezing. Improper storage and handling of vaccines can reduce their efficacy and cost thousands in financial losses. The World Health Organisation estimates that in some parts of the world, half of all vaccines go to waste before or after they are opened. But storing and transporting vaccines in areas where a power supply is irregular or non-existent can be tricky. Solar-powered or generator-run refrigeration units can cover some of the gaps here but vaccines may still become compromised on the journey from the storage place to remotely-located villages if not properly stored.
In light of this, teenage inventor Anurudh Ganesan developed VAXXWAGON, a wheel-powered system that regulates vaccine temperatures without the use of electricity or ice.
How Does It Work?
VAXXWAGON is mounted on a small trailer that can be hooked on to a bicycle or pulled along by a human or animal. The system is based on conventional refrigerator designs but swaps out the electrically powered compressor for a mechanically driven version. Vaccines are stored within an insulated cooling chamber on the trailer’s tray. As the wheels on the trailer spin, they power the compressor which in turn powers the cooling unit to safely store and transport vaccines on the final leg of their journey.
The device maintains stable temperatures for storing vaccines between 2 and 8°C. Ganesan was inspired to come up with a solution for short-term vaccine storage as a result of his own experiences. As a baby, his grandmother carried him 10 miles in India to get immunised. Once they arrived, they had to wait until the next day to receive the vaccine because the available vaccines had overheated and were unusable.
Ganesan started tinkering with the idea a few years ago before taking his prototype to professors at John Hopkins University, one of the top medical training hospitals in the world, who then provided guidance and financial support to take the concept further.
VAXXWAGON has won a host of awards and accolades such as the Lego Education Builder Award at the 2015 Google Global Science Fair and Popular Mechanics 2015 Breakthrough Award. It was last month named as one of 25 winners of the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes, an award that recognises people aged 8 to 18 years doing good work for the community and environment.
To learn more about VAXXWAGON and the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes, head to the website.