Sri Hollema's Mat Zero design

Loughborough graduand designs humanitarian aid kit to help refugees

Product design student Sri Hollema has created Mat Zero, a rechargeable heated mat that can be used as a heating solution for refugees around the world.

Sri wanted her final-year project to make an impact on vulnerable communities and increase the quality of life for refugees. She interviewed staff from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the early stages of the process to ensure that her product would meet the needs of those she wanted to help.

The main challenge she faced was figuring out how to generate heat with limited resources and power available, which is often the case in a refugee camp. The mat is powered by solar energy and uses a carbon fibre heating element which is a relatively new technology. A lot of secondary research was needed to understand how the technology could be applied. Sri used sketch development and computer-aided techniques to design the casing before making a prototype with components found online and materials from the University’s workshops.

Mat Zero has the potential to save humanitarian and non-governmental organisations millions each year whilst increasing the quality of life for refugees. Through her interviews with UNHCR Sri found out that each year the UN spends around $300 per household for heating. The Mat Zero unit is estimated to cost around $250 and would last up to five years before the battery needs replacing – illustrating its long term effectiveness. The working prototype is now ready to be developed into a commercial product, that could be sold for humanitarian purposes and to commercial campers.

On Mat Zero she said: “Humanitarian projects are a challenging field to work in but knowing your product could improve someone’s life is incredibly valuable and motivating. It’s exciting to see what innovation and design can do for the most vulnerable communities.”

Her project was displayed at the School of Design and Creative Arts Degree Show which took place earlier in June. Sri added: “I was incredibly proud to display my work alongside fellow course mates. I know the hard work and passion that has gone into all the projects, and it was great to hear such positive feedback from industry members and students alike.”

Take a look at Sri’s prototype and find out more about Mat Zero.