Portable Fridge Stays Cool for a Month, Could Save 1.5 Million Lives

And no, you can't have one for your beer

September 12, 2016 9:00 am

Polio. Diphtheria. Measles. Those are just three of 12 life-threatening illnesses that claim millions of lives every year despite the fact that we’ve long-since cured them.

The victims live, by and large, in Africa, Southeast Asia and Central America: places that suffer with extreme poverty, but also places remote enough that it can be difficult to deliver vaccinations at scale and — crucially — refrigerated.

The Isobar, a portable fridge that can maintain a temperature of 35 degrees for up to a month, might be the fix for that.

It was invented by Will Broadway, a recent industrial design graduate from Loughborough University, who was motivated by pure altruism. As Broadway told the BBC: “I wanted to make something for people who have next to nothing. It should be a basic human right, in my opinion, to have a vaccination.”

He won the James Dyson Award for his work, and intends to keep it patent-free so it can be produced on the cheap.

Two experiences shaped his decision here. The first was a trip to Cambodia, where he saw firsthand how deadly illnesses ravaged lives. The second was an internship with a medical device company, which gave him an inside look at the ways that corporate interests can inflate the price of life-saving products.

How the Isobar works is somewhat counterintuitive to the layperson. First, ammonia is heated, creating vapors that can cool fast and subsist at that temperature for long amounts of time. The result is a lantern-sized chamber that requires little power and can convey various medical supplies (from vaccinations to an organ for transplant) through nightmarish traffic, long flights or epic treks across the desert to remote villages.

It’s a simple concept, but it could make a huge difference.

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