British inventor's inflatable baby incubator wins 2014 James Dyson Award
08 November 2014
British inventor James Roberts, 23, barely out of university, has come up with an invention that could save countless lives.
Roberts has created a baby's incubator, which could be manufactured for £250, Mail Online reported.
The device could potentially transform healthcare in poor countries, where the normal £30,000 price of an incubator was far too expensive for all but the most advanced hospitals.
Roberts graduated from Loughborough University in the summer and was awarded the International James Dyson Award this week.
Experts point out that the device might also one day be used as a portable device by paramedics in the UK, or even as a standby in hospitals.
Roberts sold his car to fund the prototype, beating competitors from 18 different countries to win the prestigious prize. Roberts would spend his £30,000 prize fund on clinical trials for his machine, which he hopes would eventually be adopted in UK hospitals and aboard.
One in 10 babies around the world is born prematurely and they need to be placed in incubating machine which regulates temperature and oxygen flow which was vital to their survival, the online edition of discovery reported.
Roberts, who gained A Levels in maths, physics and design at the private St John's School in Leatherhead, before taking up product design at Loughborough, said he was appalled at the cost of a modern incubator.
He added there was no need for them to be so expensive.
He added, they were built with very expensive materials and had lots of features that were not necessarily needed, like weight scales and oxygen sensors.
The inspiration came a documentary on Syrian refugees which he had been watching.
''They had a segment about how there are loads of premature kids dying because of the stresses of war and specifically the lack of incubators out there and the infrastructure to support them,'' Roberts told the BBC. ''I thought there has to be a way to solve that.''
Roberts started work on what would be his final-year project - a portable, inflatable incubator using minimal power. He used ceramic heating elements, soft plastic panels and an Arduino computer, to build a prototype that could be powered by a wall outlet, a generator or even a car battery.
The current prototype was small enough, when collapsed, for deployment in care packages sent to refugee camps like the ones created by the Syrian conflict.
A built-in phototherapy lamp could be used to treat jaundice, and the Arduino onboard computer controlled heat and humidity.
The modular design also allowed for quick replacement of damaged parts, and the entire unit could be sterilised for re-use.