“Gel Wear”, a disposable diaper project, was born in 2017 in the halls of Yachay Tech University in Imbabura Province. It was developed by three young Cuencanos, Carolina and Daniela Serrano and David Clavijo, plus Victoria Suárez of Quito.
The initiative arose through Yachay’s participation in the Hult Prize, a worldwide student competition that challenges university teams to solve the most pressing global issues with viable business ideas. The young researchers, through various prototypes, devised a diaper that uses a membrane of hydrogel, an absorbent gel made of vegetable cellulose produced from sugar cane stalks. The resulting “Gel Wear” won the first stage of the competition.
In 2020, the team won the regionals in Tunisia, and in March, 2021 the global contest. Gel Wear is one of ten project winners, giving the young team members access to a fund of $100,000.
“What we’re looking for is to bring this money to Ecuador for investment,” Carolina Serrano told El Mercurio in a December 2020 interview. “We want to establish an eco-friendly diaper industry for the country.”
According to Serrano, disposable diapers can create a public health problem, since a child can use 2,500 diapers in its lifetime, each diaper takes 500 years to decompose, and many countries don’t have a good waste-management system.
Carolina Serrano is a biomedical engineer who was included last year in the MIT Technology Review’s annual list of innovators under 35 from Latin America. MIT’s Innovators Under 35 list is the most prestigious recognition worldwide for young innovators and entrepreneurs who are developing new technologies to address the most pressing issues faced by society.
From El Mercurio, March 16, translated by Margaret Winter