Hand of the physician and newborn in incubator  in hospitalBangladeshi and US scientists have developed an innovative ‘thermal blanket’, designed to save the lives of premature babies in resource-poor countries.

Made from locally available materials, the ‘portable incubator’ incorporates chemical warming pads to provide essential heat and is both user-friendly and safe. The exothermic pads are commercially available and commonly used for relieving joint and muscle pain.

Exothermic pads release latent heat when changing from a salt solution — in this case sodium acetate — to a solid state.

“One of our contributions to product development is the use of semi-solid hydrogenated oil as a buffer to absorb excess heat and extend the duration of optimal heat maintenance in the blanket,” says M. A. Quaiyum, co-principal investigator and scientist at the international centre for diarrhoeal disease and research, Bangladesh (icddr,b).

Saifuddin Ahmed, associate professor, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and principal investigator of the project tells SciDev.Net that the team sees the blanket as a solution to infant hypothermia (dangerously low body temperature). Prematurely born infants lack the body fat necessary to regulate their own temperature.