Now, a portable sterilisation system that will benefit remote areas

IIT Madras researchers have developed steam cylinders that do not rely on electricity and water

Updated - October 20, 2023 11:55 am IST

Published - October 16, 2023 08:32 pm IST - CHENNAI

A dental camp on IIT Madras campus on Saturday demonstrated the efficacy of portable steam-based sterilisation system the researchers have developed.

A dental camp on IIT Madras campus on Saturday demonstrated the efficacy of portable steam-based sterilisation system the researchers have developed. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

 Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras have developed a new way to sterilise surgical instruments that dentists use at medical camps in remote and rural areas with poor access to electricity and water.  

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The team developed a sterilisation system using portable steam cylinders charged by solar energy-based stations. They are strategically placed in rural areas for power generation, steam generation and other uses. The team also designed special sterilisation chambers to use stored steam to sterilise the instruments.  

The institute demonstrated the system at a camp on the campus on Saturday. It would be subjected to further trials before being deployed in the field, the researchers said.  Sathyan Subbiah, professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, who led a team of researchers said lack of electricity and water led to improper sterilisation and consequently, post-treatment infections.  

A portable steam storage canister, which has multi-layer insulation that can retain heat of steam generated via solar plants for longer durations could facilitate minor medical interventions, he explained. Currently, as doctors carry a limited set of sterilised tools, they can treat only a handful of patients in a camp. Sterilisation would disinfect contaminated surgical tools making them safe for reuse. And steam sterilisation is one of the best disinfecting methods, he said. 

M.S. Ramachandra Rao, physics professor, said the unit had been tested with success. “Pilot activities will be scheduled to supply portable steam cylinders for remote areas during dental camp activities,” he said.  

T. Sundrarajan, visiting professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at IIT Palakkad,said the techno-economic feasibility of the developed prototype system will be further evaluated before transferring for commercialisation. The institute has applied for two patents already. 

The technology requires no external source for heating; is portable and compact; has multi-layer insulation aided with vacuum layer; besides an integrated exothermic capsule integration system to increase the efficiency of the steam storage cylinder that can capture the unused steam and reuse it, a release from the institute added. 

Climate Change and Clean Energy (C3E) Division, Department of Science and Technology, has funded the project. 

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