Vaccines against killer diseases from polio to hepatitis are fragile and can easily be made useless if they get too hot or too cold.
The problem is particularly acute in the developing countries where nearly one in five of the world’s population – 1.3 billion people – live without access to electricity.
But now scientists and engineers from the UK have developed a cost-effective vaccine storage device which perfectly preserves vaccines for an astonishing 35 days using just 30 litres of ice and without needing electricity.
Research engineers from The Sure Chill Company, based in Cardiff, conceived a way to use their patented Sure Chill technology to keep vaccine cool for a month or more at tropical temperatures without the need for any power supply. To preserve the ice for such long periods requires state of the art insulation, so Sure Chill approached Dr Harjit Singh of Brunel University London, a globally recognised expert in vacuum insulating materials.
Explained Dr Singh: “The biggest challenge is to keep the vaccines in the very narrow safe storage temperature range of between two and eight degrees centigrade.
“What we have done is to combine Sure Chill’s patented technology which cocoons the vaccine chamber in water at 4°C with super-efficient vacuum insulation panels to keep the surrounding heat at bay. These panels are the best solid insulation currently available and are many times more effective than conventional refrigeration materials.