According to the World Health Organisation, 75% of deaths resulting from premature birth could be avoided if inexpensive treatments were more readily available across the globe.
In developing countries, childbirth can be high-risk, particularly if the baby is born prematurely. Access to equipment such as incubators is limited due to their high purchase and running costs.
James Roberts, a recent Loughborough University graduate has attempted to solve this problem by designing a low-cost, portable and inflatable incubator for use mainly in the developing world.
Roberts’ design, The MOM incubator, is very portable, can operate without mains power and provides the same performance of a ?45,000 incubation system at a cost of approximately ?320. “I just thought, there has to be a better way of doing this” said Roberts.
The project won this year’s James Dyson Award, which means Roberts will receive ?35,000 to develop the idea further.
Whilst researching incubators, Roberts found that they hadn’t changed much over the years. Todays modern systems come with a lot of advanced functionality, but at their core, they?ve always been boxes with heat blown into them. That’s effectively what the MOM Incubator is also, but it has a few clever innovations that make it both cheaper and more portable than other incubators.
Roberts? prototype is manually inflatable and so can be shipped flat packed. When fully inflated, it reaches a size of about one metre long. In-between uses, it can be deflated to save space. It uses ceramic heaters to keep babies warm. Roberts? prototype uses an Arduino sensor to control temperature. He says the inflatable walls act like double-glazing on a building, keeping the temperature warm and more stable than it would be otherwise.
Famous inventor Dyson said of James Roberts invention “James’ invention shows the impact design engineering can have on people’s lives. The Western world takes incubators for granted, we don’t think about how their inefficient design makes them unusable in developing countries and disaster zones. By bravely challenging convention, James has created something that could save thousands of lives”