Sterilizing Medical Equipment with the Sun

When people think of solar power they tend to look at solar heating or solar electricity which makes a lot of sense. Now some researchers at Rice University have found a way to harness the power of the sun for sterilizing medical equipment in the developing world.

The Capteur Soleil, a device designed decades ago by French inventor Jean Boubour, was modified at Rice two years ago for use as a solar-powered cookstove for places where electricity — or fuel of any kind — is hard to get.

This year, Team Sterilize modified it further. When a set of curved mirrors and an insulated box containing the autoclave are installed, the steel A-frame sitting outside Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen becomes something else entirely — a lifesaver

The system produces steam by focusing sunlight along a steel tube at the frame’s apex. Rather than pump steam directly into the autoclave, the Rice team’s big idea was to use the steam to heat a custom-designed conductive hotplate.

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