Solar-powered Florida International University mobile medical clinic nears military tests
By Meena Rupani
Florida International University is in final stages of developing a mobile medical clinic that could one day be used by the military.
The Dominican Republic will be the first country to test the center once completed.
FIU's Applied Research Center is developing the mobile medical center in conjunction with US Southern Command, based in Doral. It would run completely on solar power and could purify up to 400 gallons of water a day, according to the center.
"As of today, the WHIX 08 mobile medical clinic system design is complete," said Maj. Vincent Grizio of US Southern Command.
According to Major Grizio, the mobile medical clinic will include one large tent that provides 500 square feet of working space, a solar shade with flexible solar panels attached along the roof and sides, two one-kilowatt wind turbines on deployable masts, a generator capable of using bio-fuel, and state-of-the-art batteries that will provide up to 12 hours of power storage.
"The plan is to present the project to the US Southern Command on Feb. 24 and to the university on Feb. 25," said Dr. Norman Munroe, associate dean of the college of engineering and computing and the principal on the project.
"Today, graduate students employed by FIU's Applied Research Center are working on campus to assemble the tent laid out in the design of the mobile medical clinic. The tent can be easily disassembled whenever we wish to," Dr. Munroe added.
The project is a part of the Western Hemisphere Information Exchange Program, also known as WHIX, sponsored by the command.
The main mission of WHIX, according to Major Grizio, is to explore new renewable energy sources.
FIU received a $2.1 million congressional add-on in 2008 for the mobile medical center that would cover development materials and personnel.
"Upon completion of the system integration, FIU will then conduct system-level testing and training package development," Major Grizio said.
According to the Southern Command, the system will then be shipped to the Dominican Republic so the Dominicans can continue system testing for its academic value and then trained so that the system can be employed.
"It is ultimately up to SouthCom on how they want to utilize the center," Dr. Munroe said.
If tests go smoothly, the military might adopt the system for use worldwide in remote locations where liquid fuel supplies are difficult to transport.
"If circumstances allow," Major Grizio said, "the system will then be employed as part of a joint US/Dominican medical training event in the May timeframe."
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