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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

UCT Engineering Students Design Portable Hand Sanitizer Distiller

Nyakallo Tefu

University of Cape Town engineering students have designed a portable hand sanitizer to fight the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

The hand sanitizer has been widely recommended all over the world, according to UCT’s faculty of engineering management.

The design came about when the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment’s Professor Amit Mishra challenged students to come up with ideas to help flatten the curve of COVID-19.

One of the designated teams, who called themselves The Corry Team, then concluded that with sales of alcohol prohibited they could design a device that will put surpluses to good use.

They then decided on a portable distillation vessel to make hand sanitizer and titled their design, “Corry”.

In a statement, the team explains that the team’s prototype, which mimics the design of a Grainfather (an all-in-one brewing system), shows how breweries and distilleries can become producers of affordable hand sanitizers at a time of supply shortages.

South Africa has the fifth highest alcohol consumption rate in the world.

Team leader Thabiso Letlala, a chemical engineering student, says the current alcohol ban has resulted in large wine and spirits companies having the capacity to repurpose their facilities for non-potable ethanol production.

Other members of the Corry Team are Lebohang Mhlambi, (BSc, mechanical engineering) and Nosipho Msimango (BSc, chemistry and human anatomy and physiology).

“We could use this [alcohol] to supplement the production of affordable hand sanitizers,” said Letlala.

Letlala says Corry is a portable distillation vessel that produces sanitiser with the input of liquor, hydrogen peroxide and glycerol.

“The ingredients of the sanitizer, and their quantities, are based on recommendations from the WHO. Hydrogen peroxide and glycerol are affordable and can be bought at any pharmacy or cosmetics store”, said Letlala.

Letlala said the idea is to get supplies into the country’s most vulnerable communities, many with no running water for hand washing. Communities that are densely populated are at greater risk as they struggle to practise social distancing.

“More than 55% of South Africa’s population lives below the national poverty line,” he said. “Flattening the curve could prove to be near impossible in many communities that are under-resourced and densely populated. Solutions are needed that will delay, if not prevent, the virus from reaching these communities.”

He said breweries could easily modify their production lines to manufacture sanitisers.

Letlala and his team’s device, called Corry, is a portable distillation vessel that produces sanitiser with the input of liquor, hydrogen peroxide and glycerol. The ingredients of the sanitiser, and their quantities, are based on recommendations from the WHO. Hydrogen peroxide and glycerol are affordable and can be bought at any pharmacy or cosmetics store, said Letlala

Letlala has also partnered with Enactus UCT, working with Takudzwa Shumbamhini, the society’s deputy president.

“We’ll be entering the Ford Innovation Challenge to obtain seed funding for the project. The project will serve as the society’s annual social entrepreneurship project,” Letlala said.

The Corry Team is looking for support or assistance with this project, either expertise or resources.

(Additional reporting from UCT news)

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