Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Imaginative technology for disaster stricken zones

Tecnología imaginativa para zonas golpeadas por desastres

Today, BBC news has posted an interesting article where are reviewed some "gadgets for disaster zones". The article is written by Jack Lamport, and presents three options to cope with major issues faced during a natural or "man made" (as if we did not have enough with the nature) disasters.

1. SHELTER: Concrete canvas

It was invented in the Imperial College in London in 2004, and because of its simplicity, it has has attracted attention to civilian and military partners. According to the company who produces, after the deployment of the Concrete Canvas in few hours, the Concrete Clote cures in 24 hours, after which can have a lifespan of about 10 years.

On this link you can watch the step-by-step process of the deployment of these shelters.

For civilian use, the main issue is the cost, which according to Jack Lamport is about 16 000USD.

2. MEDICAL: Inflatable hospital

It is being used by the organization Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) since 2006 for the installation of surgical facilities, intensive care units and hospital beds in disaster stricken areas. According to the MSF, the tents can be deployed in 48 hours and are reusable. In the link provided above you can watch a video on the use of this "gadget".

The cost of this kind of facility, although not specifically for the one used by the MSFs, can be about 12 000USD, according to this article which made reference to a facility displayed in South East Texas by the Regional Advisory Council.

3. MOSQUITOES and WATER: Vestergaard Frandsen´s PermaNet and Life straw

The need for shelter and health care are primary when disaster strikes a zone. In tropical areas, the protection against mosquitoes is a fundamental component of need for a shelter. The European company has proposed an interesting solution to this, to which they have called PermaNet, a net with a long lasting insecticidal protection against mosquitoes, especially against those that carry the malaria vector.

I could not find information on costs, because the manufacturers claim that such may differ according to the conditions under which the trade is made.

Other major needs are water and energy. The first is perhaps one of the principal issues in this kind of events, and the same European company proposes an alternative to overcome that issue. The company offers two kind of filters: a simple personal water filter, and a microbiological water purifier with a lifespan that allows the treatment of about 18 000 liters.

The manufacturer claims that the simple personal filter can treat 1 000 liters under normal conditions, without the need of external sources of energy. Some additional details on the performance of the device can be found here.

The microbiological instant purifier is the routine use alternative to the personal filter. According to the manufacturer, it can filter up to 18 000 liters as mentioned above, which can in average be used for a family within a period of about 3 years, without the need of external energy. The usage is simple and it is clearly explained here; the performance in some study cases is summarized in some documents here.


SolarChill is an alternative proposed for the refrigeration of perishable material. The difference, according to the promoters of the project, is that solar energy is converted in ice instead of being converted in batteries, which reduces the costs and increases the performance of the equipment.

This is another use given to solar power at a reasonable cost of 1 500 to 2 000 USD, which according to the promoters of the project is about 50 to 60% cheaper than common solar refrigerators.

5. ENERGY: Biogas and biodigestors

I found worth mentioning that in addition to the experiences carried in the highlands of Chile and Argentina, Bolivia has joined this community with the creation of the Research Center of Biogas and biodigestors, with the support of the German Cooperation GTZ, institutions of the local UMSA in Bolivia, and the CIMNE Spain. As a technology that provides energy, this technology is not exclusively focused on the attention to extreme events, but also to the attention to the needs of people living in regions with limited resources.

These ideas show the growth of a market that can certainly be defined as the market of the "profit with a purpose", or in other words the "Humanitarian Entrepreneurship business model", as defined by Vestergaard Frandsen.

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