An Indian scientist under a grant from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has developed a solar-powered vaccine cooler which replaces traditional lead batteries and ozone depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) thus making it practical and eco-friendly. Many areas in India do not have reliable electricity making reliable and safe storage of vaccines impossible—a cause attributed to many vaccine failures including the resurgent polio in the Hindi cow belt.
Paris-based Rajendra Shende heads UNEP’s Ozone Action Branch SolarChill cooler uses the sun’s rays to create a “thick layer of ice” and maintain “temperature in the cooler between minus 2 degrees and 8 degrees” centigrade. Interestingly, this model does not use “lead batteries” as they are “toxic, difficult to carry, and need replacement every three to five years.” Instead, it uses an “ice box within the refrigerator that will provide the required insulation even at night” capable of sustaining itself for four to five days without sunshine. Without using conventional Freon-based chemicals which depletes the ozone layer, it can serve the needs of 50,000 people and will be available for commercially by 2007. Assisted by UNEP, UNICEF, World Health Organization (WHO), the Danish Technological Institute, and Greenpeace, the project courted the support of several refrigerator companies and developed the prototypes in Senegal , Indonesia , and Cuba .
The first customer for this product is President Abdul Kalam who said it will be used to maintain a facility at the Rashtrapathi Bhavan.