Forgotten Einstein Discovery Fires ISOBAR to 2016 UK James Dyson Award

By Aatif Sulleyman on at

A student at Loughborough University has been crowned the winner of the 2016 UK James Dyson Award. The invention: a portable device designed to keep vaccines at an optimum temperature so they remain as effective as possible.

William Broadway, who’s currently studying Industrial Design and Technology, calls his creation ISOBAR. How does it work? Two-phase ammonia-water absorption refrigeration, of course.

A mix of ammonia and water is, firstly, heated in a low pressure chamber, with the resultant ammonia vapour then collected and trapped within an upper chamber. Whenever a cooling effect is required, a valve releases this ammonia back into the original chamber and Bob’s your uncle.

According to WHO figures, it could help save up to 1.5 million lives per year. As Broadway explains on the James Dyson Award site, vaccine programmes in developing countries do not currently meet the international standards for temperature safe vaccine distribution, causing them to lose their effectiveness.

ISOBAR has an intriguing backstory too. The idea’s based on 'Icyball', an invention Einstein patented in 1906, but the world seemed to subsequently forget about.

“I discovered a 1929 forgotten cooling invention called Icyball that had no moving parts and provided rural farmers access to off the grid refrigeration,” said Broadway. “I refined the cast iron technology for use as a portable, controllable cooling device.

“Absorption refrigeration requires no fans, pumps or moving parts to work. It is the simple transfer of energy to and from the internal chemistry. Original Icyball units are known to be working well 85 years after their introduction.”

Broadway will be given £2,000 to develop his idea and will now continue in the next round of the James Dyson Award as they go up against entries from across the globe.