The past few years have seen some tragic worldwide incidents: from the devastation of the tsunami in Fukushima to the tornado in Missouri and civil wars across the African continent and the Middle East.
In the face of adversity, engineers across the globe are designing innovative devices to try to support the victims of these events, who lack the basic necessities of food, water, shelter and medical supplies. They are finding difficulty, however, in overcoming the obstacles associated with the cost of their designs.
You may have seen British engineers Peter Brewin and Will Crawford appear on Dragon’s Den to introduce their Concrete Canvas Shelters - made of fabric, these provide a safer haven than tents for refugees, as they will turn to concrete within 24 hours when sprayed with water. The design actually won a Saatchi & Saatchi award for World Changing Ideas.
They cost a whopping £10,000, though, and a government in the middle of a crisis or a non-profit organisation will most likely struggle to put up the funds for this.
However, an interesting article in BBC magazine runs through four other genius ideas that are currently being put to use:
This comes in the shape of several consecutive tents structured on an inflatable frame. Taking only 48 hours to be fully operational, the hospital has within it a number of operating theatres, intensive care units and emergency rooms. Used during the Pakistani earthquake in 2005 and the one in Haiti last year, this represents a fantastic substitute in situations of severe hospital damage.
Clean water can be very difficult to find in these scenarios and sometimes it’s simply too logistically difficult to drop off bottled water in the thousands. LifeStraw is a water filter that kills bacteria and parasites and can filter up to 18,000 litres of water. It is erected onto the water supply, presenting both short- and long-term solutions. It even has a portable version that can be used as a straw!
To stop the spread of malaria, PermaNet provides a better alternative to traditional mosquito nets that need to be washed regularly. The net is interspersed with anti-mosquito chemicals that act long-term; the product was also used in Pakistan and Haiti.
From hot to cold, SolarChill is an innovative refrigerating unit that converts solar energy into cold, allowing the storage of food and medical supplies, such as vaccines, which require low temperatures to remain stable. It’s particularly useful in the transportation of vaccines and represents a mobile unit with a renewable energy source.