Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
Can this cooler save kids from dying? (gatesnotes.com)
194 points by mhb 35 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 34 comments

Sounds like it works based on the same principles as a pot-in-pot cooler.


Today, I learned that an ice cream maker is a pot-in-pot refrigerator with a mixer.


One thing I like about what the Gates Foundation is that they can focus on unglamorous, high impact stuff. Keeping vaccines cold in areas without reliable power is not something makes headlines (apart from Gate's publicizing it), but that will actually save a lot more lives than many of the high profile new treatments that gain the notice of the press.

If you are interested in this kind of stuff, I would recommend reading "Doing Good Better." https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OYXWL4W/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?...

I wonder how that compares with "The Most Good You Can Do". https://www.amazon.com/Most-Good-You-Can-Effective/dp/030018...

Does anyone have a link to a diagram describing how this works? I don't understand how heating it re-condenses the water.

I imagine it's an absorption chiller. Here's a manually cycled one from the past:


The video here shows a lot more about the fridge and a little about the cooler:


I think it's the same general principle of how a propane-powered fridge in an RV works. It's much less efficient in terms of Wh or kJ consumed for a given amount of cooling than a modern high efficiency fridge of the same size running off 110-240VAC, but also does not require any form of grid power.


As I understand it:

1. The whole cooler is heated, the pressure throughout rises, and the liquid water surrounding the inner chamber evaporates.

2. The water vapor moves into the (presumably much larger) other chambers, distributing itself equally.

3. The inner chamber is sealed while the others are opened to atmosphere. The device returns to normal pressure and that cooling drops the inner chamber pressure well below atmospheric.

4. Liquid water which has now re-condensed in the other chambers is allowed into the inner chamber in a controlled manner, evaporating due to the pressure and cooling the chamber.

To be clear, the inner chamber in my understanding would be a thin shell around the actual payload compartment. The vaccines or what have you obviously don't get wet and don't get exposed to low pressure.

I found these links that seem like similar tech. It's not clear to me if the Indigo is the same as the Isobar system.



I suspect "water" is some other working fluid in the sealed system, ah maybe ammonia-water mentioned below:


This is in the same line as another article from 12 days ago: Drone Delivery Becomes a Reality in Remote Pacific Islands [0]

> The conditions in Vanuatu make vaccine distribution a tough challenge. Today, shipments are flown from the three major islands (which have cities and airports and such) to small rural islands in 9-seater planes. When a plane rolls to a stop on the grass airstrip, it’s met by someone from the local health clinic—but that’s assuming that one of the few trucks on the island is available and in working order.

The health worker picks up the vaccines, which are packed in ice, and hurries back to the clinic to stash the precious vials in a refrigerator—but that’s assuming the fridge and the clinic’s solar power system are working. Any breakdown is a serious problem, because spare parts can take weeks to arrive. And the whole operation is very expensive.

Vanuatu's residents are looking into skipping the remote refrigerators and transporting vaccines by drone. An ideal solution seems to be a combination of both, giving flexibility in both transport and storage. How much do these weigh - could they be transported by drone easily?

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17202831

I think the idea is that you wouldn't need this kind of refrigerator with a drone. Instead the drone would be dispatched the moment the next batch of children need to be vaccinated.

This is ideal because you don't need a heavy, expensive refrigeration unit to keep vaccines cool for days of travel, thus decreasing the cost and expense of vaccination.

Obviously this won't work everywhere; extreme weather, like storms or even high winds, may make drone delivery impossible for much of the year. But it appears that the more we can deliver vaccines by drone, the better.

There are ways to fly reasonably fast with rather cheap technology, if you have some way of bringing the fixed-wing aircraft up to at least over about half the speed of sound. This would e.g. be easy to archive if you use something like a coaxial folding propeller, though if you try, you could probably get away with a single folding propeller, or at least without needing the coaxial nature to provide counter-rotation, as a large enough part of the wings should be outside of the whirl the prop creates, so it can provide enough force against the prop to keep the plane spinning relatively slowly.

The technology I'm referring to (a ramjet) is unfortunately not too efficient, but the low-tech nature of it, at least as far as manufacture is concerned (design benefits greatly from modern computational fluid dynamics), makes the manufacturing cost of it, including a fuel tank, come in at about 10-100$. It's basically a fancy shaped pipe with something like a fuel pipe or so coiled around it (for cooling and to ensure sufficient temperature of the fuel), which can just be hydroformed from a seamless section of stainless steel pipe. They guzzle fuel, but as long as you either have an electronic valve a microcontroller can adapt to e.g. a simple flow meter or pressure sensor, along with a temperature probe, they only need the fuel to contain enough butane/propane or so to self-pressurize, and otherwise require the fuel to not tar/char/soot up any of the fuel nozzles and such.

Theoretically, though one might prefer to run it on liquid hydrogen in that case, the same technology, but with different tuning could run a similarly rather cheap Mach 2~3 (at surface level) reaching thing light enough to be lifted by a pair of movers or similarly build men. That would be hard to do without going for the hydrogen, and that is unlikely to be prevalent on a small pacific island.

Both of these potential things do fall under the category "Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could they didn't stop to think if they should.", the latter even under the category "ITAR want's to have a word with what you made there.", due to the necessary automatic navigation and speed, as well as technological level of materials used, as high-tech airframes are expensive.

That sounds very interesting and cool. But the lower-tech approach in the original article sounds radically more practical in real terms than either drones or liquid-hydrogen-powered ramjets ;-)

This was the general medicine-remote-island-delivery approach ;).

The LH2 ramjet could probably be made to launch from a <100m long catapult, I once did a few calculations and UHMWPE fibers should allow accelerating within iirc. 50m to Mach 0.7 with something like a large (half-ton, due to the energy density) steel coil spring (like in a watch, just a "little" larger) at the muzzle and that coiling up the rope pulling an iirc. 100 kg aircraft with a sled or so, due to the ramjet not delivering enough thrust at lower speeds. The side effect would be that because they gain thrust with speed (up to a point, for the LH2 constellation somewhere over Mach 3), there would be plenty of thrust to spare, and combined with the high structural strength necessary for the catapult, and the lack of vertebrae on board, turns up to about 30~50 G are feasible, all at near ground level.

While there is certainly an appeal to this, and the technology being sufficiently low-tech for a home shop (I am just going to refer to Sam Zeloof's garage wafer fab), any attempts at building something like it as a large hobby project would be futile for there being no way to test it outside of a remote desert area or the ocean, both rather inhospitable to a one-man flight crew. There are reasons supersonic aircraft are not tested over inhabitation. It would not be nice to a street it could technically fly through, unless the buildings are already blast proof.

And a hobby project of that scale you can't even play with will not be worth it.

(If you happen to know how to play with something like this despite the supersonic-over-land ban, please divulge your secret.)

Now they need to market this to beach goes, survivalists, preppers, beer obsessors and other people with disposable income so that it can become commoditized.

The capacity is ~2 beverages.

I think it doesn't matter a great deal, the value of vaccination is so high that each cooler can cost quite a bit and have a bunch of entities (governments, non profits, etc) happy to pay for it.

Hopefully it can save kids from dying, only to make them extremely disappointed with the lack of detail in the vague explanation of how the cooler works.

Can somebody with insight into the area explain how much of the difficulty in vaccinating children is due to political/cultural reasons and how much is logistics?

Also, I'm just impressed with Bill Gates. Here is a man who had everything and and decided to do as much good as possible with it.

It's highly dependent on the environment.

In sub-saharan africa it's mostly logistics, in western countries it's cultural (anti-vaxxers), in some other countries it's political e.g. fear of western interventionism and harm under guise of humanitarianism… sadly justified: the CIA organised fake vaccination campaigns in Pakistan to pinpoint OBL, and while officially that program was shut down who'd trust these claims?

Wow, I did learn something today.


"In its zeal to identify bin Laden or his family, the CIA used a sham hepatitis B vaccination project to collect DNA in the neighborhood where he was hiding." [...] "The deadly consequences have already begun. Villagers along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border chased off legitimate vaccine workers, accusing them of being spies. Taliban commanders banned polio vaccinations in parts of Pakistan, specifically citing the bin Laden ruse as justification. Then, last December, nine vaccine workers were murdered in Pakistan, eventually prompting the United Nations to withdraw its vaccination teams. Two months later gunmen killed 10 polio workers in Nigeria—a sign that the violence against vaccinators may be spreading."

"The CIA" - is made up of people.

Who are the specific people that came up with this idea, pitched it, agreed to it, and executed it?

Names are needed.


Vaccines need to be kept at 2C-8C before they are used to be effective. This is a problem in Africa because power can be inconsistent and villages are remote. Two improvements have been developed.

MetaFridge is a new fridge that can keep vaccines cool for up to five days without power. It can also display how long the vaccines are still god for and transmit data to a service team if needed.

Indigo is a new type of cooler that can be carried on your back. It works by heating it up which puts water into a high pressure compartment. This is sealed by a valve. Once the valve is flipped, the Indigo can keep the vaccines cool for up to 5 days with no ice or power.

MetaFridge is in the field with a solar power option in the works. Indigo is in field trials with results suggesting 4x as many places can be reached.

This looks to me like a band-aid solution for the real problem: lack of transportation infrastructure. If these people had better transportation options they wouldn't have to walk hours to get water, go to school, etc. It would also result in faster transport of vaccines.

You can ship t-shirts and plastic chairs from western countries and make yousrelf feel good because you're "helping". But what about solving the real problems like infrastructure? The west invested in infrastructure in china. Now china is investing in africa.

> the west invested in infrastructure in china.

Do you have any evidence that this is true? As far as I can tell, China invested in infrastructure in China. "West" just buys products. Your statement is equivalent to claiming that Apple invested in infrastructure in China when the reality is that Foxconn invested in infrastructure in China and Apple just buys the output.

More like "Can this cooler give kids autism?" /s

Because you read a pseudoscience website that doesn't understand the difference between elements and molecules containing elements?

I bet he still using salt in his food.

Yes, let's go back to the era when you had to have a dozen kids because half of them would be dead before they hit adulthood.

Mi piacerebbe sapere come garantire la genuinità del prodotto trasportato. La falsificazione è una realtà (sono stati spesi grandi capitali per proteggere industrie non vitali come l'intrattenimento).

Run through google translate: I would like to know how to guarantee the genuineness of the product transported. Counterfeiting is a reality (large capital has been spent to protect non-viable industries such as entertainment).

The cooler is designed to be used by the medical personnel doing the injection, so you can't guarantee it any more or less than with regular ice coolers, and if you can't trust the rest of the supply chain or the personnel you're fucked either way, you're no more fucked with TFA's cooler than with the current supply chain.

There ain't much cause for counterfeiting though, vaccines are cheap to produce, widely available and annoying to conserve, there's little incentive to counterfeit them or sit on a batch of vaccine waiting for the prices to rise to fence it.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact