CHENNAI : Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras) researchers have developed a solar-thermal steam-based Sterilization System for dental tools to help conduct medical campus in remote and rural areas, where access to electricity and water could be an issue.
This social project was funded by the Climate Change and Clean Energy (C3E) Division, Department of Science and Technology, Government of India.
In the project, an IIT Madras team developed a new way to sterilize medical equipment using portable steam cylinders charged by renewable energy-based stations (like solar energy) that are placed strategically in rural areas for power generation, steam generation and other uses. The team also designed special sterilization chambers to utilize such portably stored steam and effectively sterilize the tools.
This project was demonstrated during a medical camp at IIT Madras campus on 14th October 2023 and is all set for further trials, following which it is intended to be deployed in the field.
The IIT Madras team included Prof. Sathyan Subbiah, Department of Mechanical Engineering, IIT Madras, Prof. M. S. Ramachandra Rao, Prof. T. Sundararajan, Mr. Guhan Gunasekaran, Prof./Dr. Suresh Rao, Mr. Thangaraja Thangapandi, and Dr. K. L. Ganapathi.
Explaining the significance of this innovation, Prof. Sathyan Subbiah, Department of Mechanical Engineering, IIT Madras, said, “Millions of people in India benefit from rural health clinic facilities but many of them do not have access to water and ample electricity leading to improper sterilization and post-treatment infections. Safe sterilization of surgical instruments and other medical tools are important aspects in the health care sector.”
Further, Prof. Sathyan Subbiah added, “A portable steam storage canister can be a great contribution by facilitating minor medical interventions in the developing world by sterilizing surgical instruments and combating infections in rural areas. The portable canister is developed with multi-layer insulation, which can retain useful heat of steam, generated via solar plants for longer duration thus making it a viable option to sterilize equipment in remote areas. The steam that is produced in the solar plant or any other means can be stored in the portable canister which can be transported to remote locations to carry out the sterilization activities.”
Sterilization in a regular urban clinic involves water and electricity, which may be scarce in remote areas. Currently, doctors carry with them a set of sterilized tools, which limits the number of patients they can see at the camp. Sterilization involves cleaning and disinfecting the previously-used contaminated surgical tools before subsequent use. Steam sterilization is one of the best disinfecting methods.
Further, Prof. M. S Ramachandra Rao, Professor, Department of Physics, IIT Madras said, “We have already tested the steam sterilization unit for sterilizing infected dental equipment and the results were found successful. Pilot activities will be scheduled to supply portable steam cylinders for remote areas during the dental camp activities.”
Prof. T. Sundararajan, Visiting Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, IIT Palakkad, said, “A techno-economic feasibility of the developed prototype system will be further evaluated before transferring for commercialization. We have already applied for two patents through the IP Cell at Office of Industrial Consultancy and Sponsored Research in IIT Madras.”
The advantages of the technology developed by IIT Madras include:
Ø Portable and compact steam storage cylinder is developed for sterilizing dental equipment in remote areas
Ø Multi-layer insulation aided with vacuum layer is incorporated for retaining useful heat for more than seven hours
Ø Exothermic capsule integration system is considered to increase the efficiency of the steam storage cylinder
Ø Can aid in capturing the unused steam and re use for potential application in medical, agriculture etc.
Ø No external heating source is involved