New portable incubator Mom wins James Dyson award

An inventor from Loughborough has just scooped the international James Dyson Award for his portable incubator design, winning £30,000.

Called Mom (because saying ‘I’m just going to pop this baby in Mom’ apparently doesn’t sound creepy to everyone), his prototype has a modular design so it can be easily transported and put together at its destination, and so that parts can be easily replaced when they break or wear out.

As the BBC reports, integral to the unit is a sheet of plastic made up of inflatable panels. Once blown up and put in place, this is gently heated by a ceramic element, with an Arduino computer monitoring temperature and humidity and, if needed, an attached phototherapy lamp for jaundice. It uses very little electricity and can be powered by a car battery for over 24 hours if necessary. Later, the sheet can be sterilised and then re-used to help another baby.

James Roberts came up with the idea for his incubator after watching an episode of Panorama about the conditions in refugee camps, especially the lack of treatment options for premature babies, which means they have low rates of survival. He hopes that Mom can be used in the developing world, and says it’s compact enough to be included in the packages that are already sent to refugee camps.

Unlike hospital machines which can be used for the most underweight babies, this incubator isn’t designed to replace intensive care. But it could make a difference for the majority of premature infants, especially those separated from their mothers. And at around £250 it’s far cheaper than current technology. Roberts even says it could become part of standard ambulance kit in the future.

For now, he’s going to keep working to perfect the prototype, and hopes to bring Mom to market by 2017.

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Diane Shipley