Research And Design Of A Portable Breast Milk Storage Unit Using Solar-Powered Thermoelectric Modules: Engendering Renewable Energy Technologies Amongst Zimbabwean Rural Women
Mutirori, Samantha H.
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Thermo-electric cooling that operate by the Peltier effect coupled with solar power energy; can be a strong candidate to replace traditional refrigeration technologies that contribute to harmful atmospheric emissions. This technology can be highly beneficial to rural communities living off the grid without access to technology particularly women in developing countries that are usually left behind in the gender-energy divide. Innovations efforts by designers still have a long way to go as they often omit female users at the center of their thinking, consulting and involving them in building new technologies that can directly impact their economic productivity. The design and development of a solar powered thermo-electric portable cooler to store breastmilk was done after consultation of the rural Zimbabwean women in the Domboshava community. Their feedback was integral to the design and implementation of the prototype. The cooler was tested and it reached 15°C in 50 minutes without load and 80 minutes with heat load, the set temperature important for maintaining the quality of breastmilk for up to 24 hours. A TEC1-12706 Peltier module with 2 heat sinks and fans was selected and designed with a control system programmed in C++ language with Arduino Nano controller, DHT11 temperature sensor and a relay. This fabricated system works on DC voltage generated by photovoltaic cells from a solar panel. The performance of the 12V, 25Ah battery used was evaluated and it took 2 hours 20 minutes to be discharged with load and 1 hour 40 minutes for it to be fully charged by solar.