The St Andrews Prize for the Environment

University of St Andrews

ConocoPhillips

2017 Finalist

The Solar Socket – Bringing Light to Health

The Solar Socket – Bringing Light to Health

Bringing light to health: using solar refrigerators to power health care centres in disaster zones and unindustrialised regions. 

Dulas Ltd have pioneered solar powered medical equipment since 1985, with their solar vaccine and blood refrigerators saving lives every single day in war zones, unindustrialised regions, and areas affected by natural disaster. During trips to install these refrigerators, the team consistently witnessed the same problems with healthcare in these regions. 

The problems encountered included complications during middle-of-the-night childbirths and medical emergencies because of lack of light, doctors being unable to call the nearest hospitals to ask for advice, patients travelling long distances in the hope of medical attention, and viable vaccines being destroyed because of lack of certainty that the vaccines were safe to use.

They considered the surplus power generated by their refrigerators and, with a simple adaptation, they realised they could convert them from one-trick cold storage, to stand-alone power sources by creating The Solar Socket. 

The Solar Socket is a small panel of USB and car charger sockets for multi-purpose use, and plugs directly into the front of the refrigerator. The refrigerator remains 100 percent safe and stable, carefully designed to operate with full temperature stability, and can now create a fully energised health centre with lighting and medical equipment. 

This game-changing innovation allows for a very basic setup to become more efficient and intelligent, empowering any facility to offer high quality care. As well as powering lamps, fans and laptops, the Solar Socket is ideal for charging a mobile phone, which in turn can become a hand-held blood pressure monitor, a bank, a medication scheduler or quite simply, a lifeline to call for help. 

The Solar Socket also enables vaccination barcode scanning, instantly facilitating better control of vaccines, reducing waste and most importantly, saving lives. 

As well as the health benefits, the Solar Socket is also environmentally friendly, eradicating the need for diesel-powered generators, which are often installed in lieu of cleaner alternatives. 

Dulas’ aim is to scale up production of the Solar Socket, to reach even more areas. As well as this, they will continue to develop their range of life-saving equipment, including their line of oxygenators designed to treat premature babies. Dulas strives to constantly improve and looks to invest in their R&D by recruiting someone directly responsible for making their products more efficient and cost effective, as well as developing their equipment offering.

Dulas is set to distribute approximately 20,000 refrigerators per year from now until 2020. If these refrigerators are supplied with solar sockets, this would amount to 80,000 potential ‘solarised’ medical centres all over the world. 

The more Solar Sockets in remote, off-grid locations, the more lives will be saved. 

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