Sunamp: using thermal energy storage to protect vaccines

Posted on: 05/08/2022

An Innovate UK Innovation Loans funded business has developed a small, easily-transportable cold box to safely store COVID-19 vaccines at ultra-low temperatures.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted an urgent need for robust portable freezers that can safely deliver small quantities of vaccines to outlying care homes and surgeries where large refrigerated storage units would be impractical.

The Permafrost VacSafe has been developed to fill this need. Able to store vaccines at ultra-low temperatures for over 24 days without an external power supply, the VacSafe is compact and lightweight, ideal for GPs and nurses visiting patients who can’t travel.

It also produces less CO2 than traditional freezers meaning it can be safely stored in confined spaces such as cupboards.

Thermal storage specialists Sunamp developed the VacSafe as an offshoot of their earlier work on extending the range of electric refrigerated delivery trucks.

Previous funding from Innovate UK in 2016 had enabled the company to develop, manufacture and distribute high-efficiency, compact thermal energy storage technology based on non-toxic phase change materials. Sunamp heat batteries have already replaced hot water cylinders
in thousands of homes across the UK and Europe, cutting fuel costs and carbon emissions.

Scalable and long-lasting, heat batteries provide an efficient way of recovering waste heat and maximising efficiencies of renewables in heating and cooling. East Lothian-based Sunamp is the only heat battery manufacturer in the world to be awarded A grade RAL certification, the independent quality mark and global standard for phase change materials.

In 2020, Sunamp was awarded an innovation continuity loan from Innovate UK to enable the company to further develop and exploit this technology, as well as ramp up trials and roll-out of the VacSafe to help in the fight against COVID-19.

Founder and CEO, Andrew Bissell said:

Sunamp’s ultimate goal is to create innovative products that reduce fuel poverty, reduce energy consumption, and reduce the carbon intensity of vehicles and buildings by harnessing free or low-cost renewable heat.

The loan has also enabled Sunamp to create 10 new jobs in both engineering and support functions.

Andrew added:

We’re extending our unique technology across different sectors, and already we’re seeing exciting new developments such as improving air quality in cities.

We’re committed to making a positive social and environmental impact. Our heat batteries are non-toxic, non-flammable and we’re able to fully re-use or recycle every component at end of life.

Our work is impacting how the UK tackles climate change as well as helping to safeguard our planet for future generations… and that’s very exciting.

When the pandemic hit, we realised we had the technology that could help safely distribute vaccines. We’re delighted that the innovation continuity loan has helped us do this.

About Innovation Loans

Innovate UK is offering up to £25 million in loans to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises. Innovation Loans are on offer to highly innovative late-stage research and development projects with the best potential for the future.

Each project that receives funding has clear routes to commercialisation and economic impact, leading to new products, processes or services with a particular focus on supporting and delivering future economy areas included in the Innovate UK plan for action.

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