Four engineering students have developed an improved means of transporting vaccines to distant locations in the developing world. The transportation device — a vaccine-refrigerating bicycle — was the result of a class project developed by Assistant Professor Devesh Ranjan in his Thermal Fluids class at the University of Texas A&M’s Department of Mechanical Engineering.
According to Vaccine News Daily:
“I wanted to give them a different perspective. I tell them now that they are ready to go out in the industry. Let’s try to do something that you will be proud of after leaving. All the while, I keep the project aimed at the benefit of developing countries.”
The heart of the bicycle’s design — a mobile refrigeration unit powered by pedaling — had already been completed in a previous semester by the group. Travis Schott, one of the students who constructed the device, explains their design draws from the concepts of everyday appliances that utilize the vapor compression cycle, different from the previous version of the device.
“They used more of an electric approach, using a small generator on the back wheel which generated a current that ran to a thermoelectric device. It got to their target temperature in close to an hour. We wanted to do that faster.”
The ability to combine the pedal-powered cooling system together with a bicycle design is indeed a well-suited vaccine transportation device for many developing countries, where poor infrastructure, the lack of access to reliable transportation, and the necessity for reaching remote communities with crucial vaccines make this transportation concept a viable and necessary one.
News of this advancement comes about a month after we reported on Baylor College Dean of Tropical Medicine’s Dr. Peter Hotez laid out an audacious plan to target and eradicate disfiguring tropical diseases in the Pacific Rim through the development of new vaccines and a commitment to reaching remote communities in order to stamp out the diseases. Together with developments like this pedal-powered mobile refrigeration unit, the academic sector of Texas biotech community is demonstrating a concerted effort to apply science and engineering to the developing world.