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The solar-powered camels have legs.

A number of media outlets recently reported on a project in which Princeton engineers are helping to develop camel-mounted, solar-powered refrigerators to purvey medicines to rural parts of Africa.

“Camel convoys will deliver medicine and medical supplies, just as they traditionally have,” Ode Magazine wrote of the project, which is a collaboration between Kenyan-based Nomadic Communities Trust, Designmatters at California’s Art Center College of Design and researchers at Princeton’s Institute of Science and Technology of Materials (PRISM).

“However,” Ode continued, “the camels will now be equipped with lightweight, durable ergonomic saddles (made from bamboo) along with a saddleback structure. This structure holds a compartmented refrigerated unit and solar power generator. Thanks to these technologies basic medicines like vaccines (which require refrigeration) can be transported through harsh terrains, where roadways are few and far between. Once at the remote site, the solar power generator can also be used to power clinics.”

Nomadic Communities Trust has been using camels for years as mobile health clinics in remote desert communities in western Kenya, according to the Wired UK website. But efforts to deliver vaccines and medicines have been hampered by the lack of refrigeration.

Beginning in 2005, the coalition began developing a lightweight, solar-powered refrigerator capable of transporting medicines across the desert. The Princeton team is lead by Winston Soboyejo, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering,

“The design is simple but effective: the fridge itself is mounted atop a frame of hardened aluminum, which is lightweight yet able to support up to 136 kg of cargo,” Wired wrote. “A crystalline solar panel provides power to the refrigerator, provides lighting at night and runs monitors and video equipment for health education sessions.”

A resilient and inexpensive bamboo frame supports the system on the camels’ humps.

The story was also picked up by Energy Boom and Inhabitat among others.

In the following video, Soboyejo talks about the project:

 
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