May 23, 2022

Smart solar-powered freight containers help ship drugs safely and securely

Local startup Swiss Airtainer SA teamed up with CSEM to develop smart, self-powered containers for shipping pharmaceutical drugs under temperature-controlled conditions. The containers, equipped with ultralight, custom-built solar panels developed by CSEM, keep medicines cold along the entire logistics chain, while full traceability prevents theft. The firm plans to introduce its first containers on the market by end-2022.

Marco Martin, CTO of Swiss Airtainer SA, and Matthieu Despeisse, Group Leader Solar Modules at CSEM

Lightweight to minimize carbon emissions

Swiss Airtainer’s containers are made from a specialty composite material and ultra-light solar panels, resulting in a weight of 400 kg – versus 650 kg for regular containers. This would cut the transportation-related carbon emissions by nearly 45%.

“The solar panels we developed are just one millimeter thick, which is five times thinner than conventional ones,” says Matthieu Despeisse, Group Leader Solar Modules at CSEM.“They weigh less than two kilograms per square meter, whereas conventional ones come in closer to 16 kilograms per square meter. And they use a special encapsulation technology that lets them adopt the shape of the container they’re on while still delivering high performance and high durability.”

Enhanced security and traceability

Each container has 18 sensors that send instantaneous alerts in case the container experiences temperature changes or sudden movement. This helps prevent theft and loss, as operators are notified if a container is opened unexpectedly or if the container’s contents may have deteriorated.

Swiss Airtainer is in the process of obtaining certification for its containers from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency. Once that’s received, the firm will carry out various pilot tests. Market launch is scheduled for the end of this year.

“We want to improve healthcare by giving the pharmaceutical industry an affordable, viable, and environmentally friendly solution for shipping drugs,” says Eduard Seligman, CEO of Swiss Airtainer SA. “That way, we can help ensure patients around the world get the treatments they need.”

Press release