Va-q-tainers developed by va-q-tec operate on the concept of passive cooling and can maintain a desired temperature for a specified period of time without being plugged into any external energy source
There are two systems for transporting temperature susceptible cargo, viz active and passive systems. The active system had an external source to provide the energy to cool the contents. However, the passive system, in very lay terms, does not use any external source to control the heat flow. Its passive thermal packaging could be transported without input of energy from outside source, thus obviating the need for any external intervention.
The passive system consist of a combination of insulated material and temperature stabilizing media. The system would be able to keep the cargo within the specified temperature range, for a pre-defined period of transport. Like ISO reefer containers, the boxes are equipped with data loggers to record temperatures and other parameters. These preconditioned containers can be taken on rent, which can maintain the required temperature for 5 days or more.
The usage too, is versatile. For example an exporter can ask for a box that would maintain a cooling of -50 degree centigrade for a pharmaceutical product A and another box that would maintain a temperature of -10 degree centigrade a pharmaceutical product B – both preconditioned to maintain the required temperature.
The company va-Q-tec, inter alia, specialises in vacuum insulation panels, phase change materials, and low or high temperature storage materials. They are one of the leading manufacturers of vacuum insulation panels and low or high temperature storage materials and had been in the insulation industry since 2001. They have developed solutions for the carriage of temperature sensitive cargo in boxes of varying sizes which have a passive mode of cooling. Sarini Sachdeva, a consultant to va-Q-tec says that it “has the concept of a flask, but at a very high quality level.”
Their containers termed va-Qtainers range in sizes from 96 litres to 2 Euro/US Pallets. They have a payload capacity ranging from 300 kgs to 1200 kgs. These boxes are now extensively used for transportation of temperature sensitive cargo by air. At the core of this technology are a few components that constitutes this unique form of temperature maintenance:
- Phase change Material or PCM, which help in maintaining a constant set temperature for an extended period of time up to five days or more without any input from external source. PCM had the capacity to absorb and release thermal energy (heat) during the process of melting and freezing.
A commonly used PCM was ice. Ice was a good PCM for maintaining temperatures at 0°C. An ice would maintain a temperature of 0°C, till all of it had melted, after which the temperature would rise, thus making it unsuitable for most thermal energy storage applications. A PCM on the other hand is able to maintain very low temperature for an extended period of time.
- The Vacuum Insulation Panels (VIPs) that are used in the boxes, are highly efficient thermal insulation plates. The thermal conductivity of the VIP is almost zero owing to the vacuum created inside the plates. The thermal packaging solution is environmentally friendly.
va-Q-tec in India offers services through Forwarders and Airlines. The containers or boxes are offered on a one way rental basis for a fixed period of time. The boxes can be returned to any of their service centers around the world. In India there are two such centers in Mumbai and Hyderabad.