Two UT Arlington engineers will use a new
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant to update an ancient method of
evaporation to cool vaccines and medicine that must be shipped to remote parts
of the world without ready access to electricity.
The University of Texas at Arlington
announced that it is a Grand Challenges Explorations winner, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Seung Mun You
and Hyejin Moon, two
Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering faculty members, are using aluminum and
nanopore technology to update an evaporative process known as “zeer cooling.”
They will pursue an innovative global health and development research project,
titled "High Performance Portable Evaporative Refrigeration for Vaccine
“We have an entire population that isn’t getting
the proper medicine and vaccines because of where they are located,” said You,
a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering in UT Arlington’s College
of Engineering. “We will
use nanotechnology to circulate water that will keep the vaccine cargo cool
Grand Challenges Explorations funds individuals
worldwide who are taking innovative approaches to some of the world’s toughest
and persistent global health and development challenges. GCE invests in the
early stages of bold ideas that have real potential to solve the problems
people in the developing world face every day. You’s project is one of more
than 80 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 9 grants announced recently by the
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
“Investments in innovative global health
research are already paying off,” said Chris Wilson, director of Global Health
Discovery and Translational Sciences at the Bill & Melinda Gates
Foundation. “We continue to be impressed by the novelty and innovative spirit
of Grand Challenges Explorations projects and are enthusiastic about this
exciting research. These investments hold real potential to yield new solutions
to improve the health of millions of people in the developing world, and ensure
that everyone has the chance to live a healthy productive life.”
To receive funding, You and other Grand
Challenges Explorations Round 9 winners demonstrated in a two-page online
application a creative idea in one of five critical global heath and
development topic areas that included agriculture development, immunization and
Zeer technology has been used for
thousands of years to keep produce and items that need refrigeration cool in
places where electricity is non-existent.
“Think of it as a fridge for your
picnic,” Moon said.
Typically, two clay pots are used in the
zeer process. Holes in the bottom of the pots are plugged, and sand is placed
in the larger clay pot as a base. The smaller clay pot is then placed inside
the larger one, and sand is placed as a layer between the pots. Then water is
poured in that sand. The evaporation process causes the smaller pot to cool.
The traditional zeer process has several
limitations, You said. The water added to the sand causes the pots to be very
heavy. Water must be added continually to keep contents in the smaller pot
cool. And the process only works well in arid, hot conditions.
You’s technology would use lightweight
aluminum materials rather than clay and sand. Nanostructures would be networked
on the inside of the outer aluminum container. Those nanostructures would move
the water around, causing vaporization and cooling the inside container.
Moon, an assistant professor of
mechanical and aerospace engineering, said the inside container of their system
can chill to 40 degrees Fahrenheit (6 degrees Celsius), cool enough to ensure
that vaccines and medicines are preserved and can arrive safely at the
far-flung reaches of the world.
Engineering Dean Jean-Pierre Bardet said
the team’s work holds global promise.
“It could be a game-changer,” Bardet
said. “Evaporative cooling is not only smart, it also has a sustainable element
to it. Anything we can use that will cool but use less energy is a smarter way
Grand Challenges Explorations
Grand Challenges Explorations is a $100 million initiative funded by
the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Launched in 2008, over 700 people in 45
countries have received Grand Challenges Explorations grants. The grant program
is open to anyone from any discipline and from any organization. The initiative uses an agile, accelerated grant-making
process with short two-page online applications and no preliminary data
required. Initial grants of $100,000 are awarded two times a year. Successful
projects have the opportunity to receive a follow-on grant of up to $1 million.
The University of Texas at Arlington
The University of Texas at Arlington is a
comprehensive research institution of more than 33,200 students and more than
2,200 faculty members in the heart of North Texas. Visit www.uta.edu
to learn more.