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Published on January 31st, 2009 | by Ariel Schwartz

14

Engineer Uses Solar Energy, Wax, and Human Sweat to Fight Malaria

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January 31st, 2009 by
 

Those of us in cooler climes often forget that malaria is an epidemic in many parts of the world— according to the World Health Organization, 300-500 million cases are diagnosed each year. And while insecticides are helpful, mosquitoes quickly build a resistance to the treatment. Fortunately, a Kentucky engineer named Tom Kruer has come to save the day with a cheap, low-tech solution to the malaria problem.

Kruer won $40,000 from InnoCentive for his idea, which uses only wax, human sweat and solar energy.

The ingenious malaria-fighting invention consists of a cone-shaped mosquito trap that incorporates cheap paraffin wax and human sweat as the main ingredients. During the day, a container of wax absorbs solar energy as it melts. At night, the container is brought inside, where the heat is released at approximately the temperature of the human body as the wax re-solidifies. Combined with a water-based attractant derived from human sweat (collected from a wrist band), the trap mimics the scent, moisture, and temperature profile of a sleeping body. Mosquitoes are attracted to the cone, and are subsequently trapped.

Kruer estimates that his invention can be produced for under $10, making it ideal for developing communities around the world.

Pilot production of Kruer’s mosquito trap will begin in early February, with a full roll-out set for May 2009. Field testing will be conducted in university laboratories as well as malaria-prone communities throughout Africa.

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About the Author

was formerly the editor of CleanTechnica and is a senior editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine, and more. A graduate of Vassar College, she has previously worked in publishing, organic farming, documentary film, and newspaper journalism. Her interests include permaculture, hiking, skiing, music, relocalization, and cob (the building material). She currently resides in San Francisco, CA.



  • http://www.squidoo.com/sweating-treatment Sweating Cure

    Hi! I really love to read your blog. I am visiting your blog whenever I have some time left

  • http://www.squidoo.com/sweating-treatment Sweating Cure

    Hi! I really love to read your blog. I am visiting your blog whenever I have some time left

  • http://mosquitomaze.com Uril Greene

    nice idea, but not very user friendly or sustainable. Try the mosquito maze and compare the results.

  • http://mosquitomaze.com Uril Greene

    nice idea, but not very user friendly or sustainable. Try the mosquito maze and compare the results.

  • Cam

    Don’t get me wrong, this is a great design for a mosqito trap, but in terms of an effective way to reduce the incidence of malaria I don’t see the benefit. If you put this trap in the same room as 5 sleeping humans, this appears to mosquitos to be the 6th human, thus reducing the chance of the each person being targeted by a mosquito by 3%. At $10 a pop, I think the nets are a better choice.

    Also, I was led to believe that mosquitos target animals based on their CO2 exhalation plume which is why many other mosquito traps burn propane or natural gas to attract the insects.

    If temperature and smell are the main attraction, why don’t mosquitos attack trees and rocks that sit in the sun and animals have rubbed up against?

    On the upside, you’ll definately make a few sales in the Canadian Cottage Country market!!! Just make sure the holes are big enough for those suckers to get in…

  • Cam

    Don’t get me wrong, this is a great design for a mosqito trap, but in terms of an effective way to reduce the incidence of malaria I don’t see the benefit. If you put this trap in the same room as 5 sleeping humans, this appears to mosquitos to be the 6th human, thus reducing the chance of the each person being targeted by a mosquito by 3%. At $10 a pop, I think the nets are a better choice.

    Also, I was led to believe that mosquitos target animals based on their CO2 exhalation plume which is why many other mosquito traps burn propane or natural gas to attract the insects.

    If temperature and smell are the main attraction, why don’t mosquitos attack trees and rocks that sit in the sun and animals have rubbed up against?

    On the upside, you’ll definately make a few sales in the Canadian Cottage Country market!!! Just make sure the holes are big enough for those suckers to get in…

  • http://GlobalPatriot.com Global Patriot

    An excellent bit of ingenuity with regards to fighting a serious problem with a minimum about of technology. Hopefully this will inspire many more such innovations. Combined with nets, we should see a dramatic decrease in malaria.

  • http://GlobalPatriot.com Global Patriot

    An excellent bit of ingenuity with regards to fighting a serious problem with a minimum about of technology. Hopefully this will inspire many more such innovations. Combined with nets, we should see a dramatic decrease in malaria.

  • http://molvray.com/acid-test quixote

    Sure, you’d still need mosquito nets, but if this simple thing works, it’ll kill mosquitoes attracted to humans each and every night. Enough years of that, and the surviving mosquitoes will prefer other food items. You’ll always still need mosquito nets, but the chances of getting malaria will drop way down.

    This is a brilliant idea. People get paid hundreds of thousands in research funds and don’t come up with anything this elegant and potentially effective.

  • http://molvray.com/acid-test quixote

    Sure, you’d still need mosquito nets, but if this simple thing works, it’ll kill mosquitoes attracted to humans each and every night. Enough years of that, and the surviving mosquitoes will prefer other food items. You’ll always still need mosquito nets, but the chances of getting malaria will drop way down.

    This is a brilliant idea. People get paid hundreds of thousands in research funds and don’t come up with anything this elegant and potentially effective.

  • Tom Kruer

    Mike:

    Thanks for the compliments!

    Cannot argue that the research has shown that mosquito nets are indeed effective, especially if treated with pesticides. However, the InnoCentive challenge was to come up with a solar-powered device that could actually eradicate Malaria vector mosquitoes, not just keep them from host feeding.

    Tom Kruer

  • Tom Kruer

    Mike:

    Thanks for the compliments!

    Cannot argue that the research has shown that mosquito nets are indeed effective, especially if treated with pesticides. However, the InnoCentive challenge was to come up with a solar-powered device that could actually eradicate Malaria vector mosquitoes, not just keep them from host feeding.

    Tom Kruer

  • http://hiddenjoule.com Mike

    That is $40,000 well earned. The key to beating widespread problems is a cheap solution using widely available resources.

    That said, though, the ‘wax hat’ won’t beat the price and effectivness of mosquito nets.

    Mike

  • http://hiddenjoule.com Mike

    That is $40,000 well earned. The key to beating widespread problems is a cheap solution using widely available resources.

    That said, though, the ‘wax hat’ won’t beat the price and effectivness of mosquito nets.

    Mike

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