Researchers from Rice University in the United States have come up with two prototype solar sterilizers that will enable medical institution in remote areas sterilize medical equipment.
The new devices consist of a vessel containing water and gold nanoparticles that is placed in sunshine collected using a solar dish. The nanoparticles absorb the sunlight and this heat produces steam.
The usual method of sterilizing medical equipment includes steam, which consumes power and water. Some of the medical facilities in rural Africa are not connected to the national power grid and this might not be favorable.
“Although steam-based sterilization is the primary method of choice for the processing of medical waste in the developed world, the large energy requirement for operation is the fundamental limitation for its adoption in developing countries, with limited or nonexistent access to sources of electricity sufficient to power such systems,” the study says.
The temperatures of the two prototypes are between 115 and 132 degrees Celsius for the time period sufficient to sterilize the contents of a 14.2 liter volume. This is in accordance with the US Food and Drug Administration sterilization guidelines.
“Some consideration should be given to a method of ensuring the items to be sterilised stay at or above the required temperature for the required time without having to watch the process,” Tony Collins, managing director of UK-based autoclave manufacturer Priorclave said.
The use of the gold nanoparticles have raised question of the possible price of the items and if poor communities can afford the technology. The prototypes have not yet been field tested and as soon as they are, it will be clear what value they would add to rural medical institutions.