Designing and Constructing a Low-Cost Incubator/Warmer/Cooler/Transporter for Neonates

University of Maryland, 2011 - $49,100

Infant mortality in poor areas of the world remains high, with premature birth and asphyxia two of the leading causes. The well-regulated thermal environment provided by an incubator in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit can be crucial for a newborn’s survival, but social, cultural and economic pressures often result in mothers of premature infants in developing countries being forced to leave hospitals as soon as possible in order to resume their traditional family duties.

This team is circumventing the problem by providing a low-cost home incubator kit for in-home care of high-risk infants. The team’s device is a combination transporter (for the move between hospital and home), cooler, heater and incubator. It consists of a heat pipe-coupled evaporative cooler (water-filled clay pot) connected to a pod-like bubble for housing the infant. The heat pipes will allow both heating and cooling. A digital temperature readout is on the front, and a battery and solar panel are provided for off-grid functionality. The team is partnered with General Electric’s (GE) Maternal Infant Care division and a charitable hospital in Southern India. Their one-year goal is to design and test the device; once tested, GE will take over marketing and manufacturing.