Off-grid Operating Theatre
Peter Hazendonk, Maks Derks
A PROJECT BY
Danang Syady Rahmatullah, Fieke Wijnen, Maud van der Linden, Max Moonen
Hospitainer is developing an autonomous OT (operation theatre) module which comes in a 20ft shipping container and can be connected to an existing primary health care clinic/hospital, in order to strengthen the local health system. The medical grade 20ft OT container brings everything needed for autonomous operation, but it is currently still dependent on diesel power generators to provide energy. Our task is to find a sustainable way to power the OT containers, while taking into consideration durability, end-of-life solutions for the product, and the impact on the local population, amongst other things.
We have created a solar panel system which considers factors like: location, power consumption of specific container setups, and usage duration of an OT. We made a digital tool for Hospitainer to calculate the number of solar panels required to power an OT considering these variables, which advises the optimal solar panel arrangement related to azimuth and tilt. The arrangements also come with a rainwater collection and biosand filter which leverages the solar panel frames as gutters to collect water in a low-tech, cost-efficient and energy-efficient way. The system includes Li-ion batteries that can replace the back-up generators needed in the hospital, to make sure surgeries can always be performed. To validate that the solar panels and batteries are recycled properly and locally at their end-of-life to prevent e-waste, we have set up a network of Producer Responsibility Organizations in Africa.
Throughout the first quartile, we spent our time researching these four main topics: systems and equipment, water, consumables, and power sources, which need to be considered when developing a sustainable and autonomous operating theatre in rural areas. Additionally, we gathered contextual information like healthcare and technology in rural areas and local cooperation to get a better understanding about the scale of the project. Besides, we got to visit Hospitainer’s office in Vaassen where we got to see the medical containers and equipment in person.
The second quartile revolved around the problem of sustainably powering an operating theater in a rural setting. We explored different off-grid solutions by contacting experts, which eventually led to the start of creating a solar panel system for rural areas. Therefore, our team has set up a website for Hospitainer to analyze the number of solar panels required by an OT in a certain location, considering factors like the usage duration of an OT, solar panel brand, azimuth, and tilt. Besides, we investigated different options for power storage to ensure energy availability and decided that using lithium-ion batteries is the most usable for our context.
The availability of these off-grid solar products adds to the increasing concerns about e-waste, which presents an extra environmental challenge. Therefore, we have contacted Producer Responsibility Organizations to assist Hospitainer with their responsibility of taking care of the e-waste the OT produces.
Water plays a vital role in healthcare facilities, to make sure everything is sterile. However, potable water in rural areas is not always accessible, which is why we iterated the solar system to be capable of rainwater harvesting by using rain gutters, rain barrels and a biosand filter.