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

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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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.


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