Part I – The Beginning of a Story - The Problem
I found this story when I was watching local news, channel 6 WAITE in Knoxville. The story – how Coca-Cola is fighting Covid-19. Coke! I was hooked!
All stories start with a problem, and this one was global – a shortage of test tubes for Covid-19 testing. How could test tubes ever be a world-wide problem?
These tubes are special. They start life as plastic preforms, small plastic tubes that are heated and blown into shape. But there’s more . . . They can’t leak. They have to be large enough to hold any size swab, and millions must be made every week. It’s a BIG problem!
Part 2 – The Middle – Step 1
This could be a set of Covid-19 tests. Do you see the swab and the vial? Back in May there were not enough test kits around, and something had to be done.
The US Department of Health and Human Services reached out to the Oak Ridge National Lab (ORNL), which is near Knoxville, Tennessee. They talked to Lonnie Love, the lead coronavirus scientist, about options.
Step 2 Lonnie knew the people at Coke, and talked to them about what they needed. They decided the preform from Coke looked like a perfect match for the testing kit.
Step 3 Lonnie and ORNL asked Coke for preform samples, like that first tube. They worked together to decide if the preform test tubes could be used in the kits.
Look above at the kits again. Those packages include the swab, saline solution, and the test tube. The tubes have to be big enough for the swabs to fit inside, and the cap has to seal on top. Coke’s do!
Coke preforms have a screw-top lid that’s tamper-proof, and it seals so there won’t be any leaks.
Step 4 Lonnie’s team checked out the preforms first. Then they picked Longhorn Vaccines-Diagnostics in San Antonio, Texas to do more testing.
Lonnie wanted Longhorn to double check to make sure the preform met all their requirements. They’re one of the five companies that make covid-19 tests.
Step 5 Within 24 hours, Lonnie got a call from Longhorn. They said, “Coke is it!”
Step 6 Lonnie’s team did another set of tests to make sure the preforms were leak proof. They also made sure bacteria couldn’t grow inside. How? They either heated them to a high temperature, or cleaned them in an ethanol solution. Ethanol is a grain alcohol.
Step 7 Lonnie also reached out to Sandia National Laboratories to work on sterilizing the preforms. It has to be done before they can be used in testing kits.
Sandia uses Gamma Irradiation for sterilization. It’s the best way to safely and economically sterilize huge amounts of medical equipment. Randy Schunk led the Sandia engineering team. Their job – to figure out the right amount of gamma rays. Enough to sterilize the tubes, but not so much that it damaged the preforms, their caps, and their contents. Then they’d be useless.
Look at the Y line. It shows how gamma radiation works. The waves can travel through paper and aluminum, but only a third of them can make it through lead or concrete.
STEP 8 Sandia’s job is to figure out the right amount of gamma radiation to clean the preforms but not damage them. They’ll share their results with the other companies around the country who sterilize the coke preforms.
Part 3 – The End – Step 9
On June 1, Coca-Cola announced this incredible story. Their Southeastern Container Company (SEC) from North Carolina had already produced 7 million tubes, in one week, for 7 million covid-19 kits.
Step 10 That was 8 weeks ago. Since then they have produced 56 million tubes for covid-19 kits.
Thanks to Coke, the US Department of Health and Human Services, Oak Ridge, Longhorn, and Sandia working together, 56 million people have been able to find out whether they’re positive or negative for covid-19. Each of these companies must feel proud of what they’ve done for their family, friends, communities, and country, and I’m proud of them. I hope you are too!
My Main Source for this Post
When I write, I can only have one voice in my head, mine. A little noise is fine. But too much, or worse yet, WORDS, and I must change rooms or pull out headphones. Then I can write on!