Mauro Gazzelli studied Marketing and Management at the Università della Svizzera Italiana of Lugano, in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino in Switzerland. For ten years, he managed a factory, producing industrial refrigerators.
But, as luck or fate would have it, on one fine day, he encountered Shairin Sihabdeen (Sri-Lankan from her father's side and Swiss from her mother's), preparing for her qualifying examination to become a physician. She was studying late, and Maura was watching a documentary about children stricken with dysentery.
That same night, in a bar in Lausanne, Mauro and Shairin reflected upon human infections. Though it wasn't a usual bar topic, Mauro felt it unacceptable that, in 2015, scores of babies from poor countries were still dying because of hygiene issues. Surprisingly, dysentery is the second largest cause of infant mortality, and is particularly acute for babies up to six months of age.
Mauro came up with the idea of a device that exploited the principle of pressure cookers, and that would have sterilized the water inside the bottle but not the baby bottle or the teat itself.
While the pair were aware that sophisticated and efficient filtering systems for water were already being developed and implemented, they felt that those other solutions focused exclusively on cleaning water, while their device would sterilize the water and the bottle with which the baby would come into contact.
Though neither Shairin nor Mauro are engineers, they took the method by which industrial refrigerators produce cold, and reinterpreted it to generate heat.
As Mauro explained to Not Impossible Now:
“Our process employs a very simple physical principle: an increase of pressure corresponds to a rise in temperature. Once we generate a pressure of 3.5 bars, the water reaches 138.5 C°. According to the sterilization chart, under such conditions, water is completely sterilized in 94 seconds. By comparison, at a temperature of 121 C°, the necessary time to obtain the same result amounts to 20 minutes. [Sterilization is considered complete when the Botulism’s bacterial spores – the most resistant - get eradicated.] 3,5 bars is a perfectly manageable pressure level, which allows us to reach the boiling point in two minutes.”
Though this sterilization process doesn’t demineralize the water, it enables it to be free of viruses, bacteria and toxicities.
Mauro went on to relate that his partner, biology professor Luca Paltrinieri, upon permission from Lugano’s municipality, took the highly toxic sewage entering the water purifier and brought it to a lab. The Professor observed the liquid in petri dishes before and after the treatment with Mauro and Shairin’s device. The liquid waste, together with the baby bottle and teat, became microbiologically pure and the water was fully sterilized.
To date, this scientifically corroborated accomplishment represents Mauro's most joyful and rewarding moment in the process.
After Shairin scolded her partner for his long-winded introduction to the Ls Baby Bottle, they showed us the prototypes conceived so far: the initial one lacked aesthetics, was cheaply produced and employed for the lab test; the following iteration, printed with a 3D-printer, and in consideration of the lab test’s results, produced a captivating, functional, design.
One important change consisted in moving the valve from a horizontal position (which, in a full water immersion, caused some leaks), and the device’s head morphed to a more spherical shape to create a protective chamber or shock absorber of sorts around the teat.
And the device continues to change. Just in the last few weeks, from our first Skype discussion until the date of this article, the product has undergone additional modifications, both in its design and functionality, as a result of the feedback received.
Here, in Mauro’s own words, are the new changes:
1. The cap can now be screwed and unscrewed without being displaced from the body of the product. The lever latch and a hinge prevent the risk of losing or damaging the cap.
2. The cylinder of the teat is no longer threaded, but now boasts a bayonet fitting, making it easier to work the opening/closing mechanism, as well as reducing the unnecessary contact with human hands.
3. The valve is now perfectly vertical and built in the body of the baby bottle. This enables a higher efficiency and increases the shock protection.
4. The handle is covered with “anti-burn” material.
5. The entire baby bottle – made of stainless steel and no longer die-casted Aluminum – is produced via cold foil printing.
6. The new, squared off design is able to optimize the item’s portability. Thanks to this new shape, up to 936 baby bottles can be carried in a single pallet.
7. The product’s capacity has been raised to approximately half a liter.
8. And the Ls Baby Bottle can now be converted into a self-sterilizing “sippy cup.”
Not wanting to give up control of their project, Mauro and Shairin decided to finance prototypes independently.Their newly founded, GratzUp Corporation is attempting to go down the path of crowdfunding to produce the first 200-500 pieces that will be field tested by a foundation in India.
Through a sample survey of 100 babies, monitored for a week, they will gather data on occurrences of dysentery with the obvious aim to consistently bring that number down to acceptable standards presented in western cities.
The sterilized water will be vital, not only in the initial feeding phase, but also in the weaning process to provide extra hydration. Other parts of the population, such as the elderly, can benefit from this safe source of water.
The two “inventors” are also planning a documentary about their experience in India or, to quote Mauro’s words, “a video documentation” to awaken people’s interest in the whole project.
Mauro added, “I’d like to start by saying that our product is especially conceived for those situations in which mothers cannot breastfeed their babies, either because the women are ill, or because they are undernourished. According to the data provided by the World Health Organization, 4000 babies die daily out of dysentery. These numbers may appear monstrous at first, but if we look at things in perspective, 5 out of the 7 billion people who populate the earth, are poor.”
Evidently, Mauro and Shairin hope to reach as many babies and families in need as possible. Their baby bottle is expected to be priced at $30. And, when a consumer purchases it, he/she is able to download an application, which allows tracking of the device, and the app and site will connect users through a micro-blog to help raise participation and awareness.
The couple intend to sell the Ls baby bottle at a lower price to humanitarian associations and governments.
Mauro’s and Shairin’s dream is that their invention will be able to open people’s eyes on how, in most cases, some of the developing world's issues can be solved in simple ways.
Raising awareness towards this burning issue of deathly dysentery represents a major obstacle. To participate, you can contribute to their cause until September 25 at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-ls-the-life-saving-baby-bottle#/story