Researchers Built a Paper Centrifuge that Resembles Modern Medical Equipment out of an Ancient Toy

paper centrifuge

The team of researchers believes their paper centrifuge will make a visible difference in poorer countries, where doctors cannot afford expensive equipment.

Since modern medical equipment can be extremely costly and not every clinic can afford spending money on them, a team of researchers from Stanford University built a paper centrifuge using an ancient toy’s model that delivers almost the same results as its modern-day descendant.

Manu Prakash, the lead author of the study, won a genius award back in 2016 after he successfully built a paper microscope using only basic materials. The device costs approximately $1.5 to make. Now, he moved on to analyze the modern centrifuges’ mechanism and come up with an inexpensive design that would deliver the same results at extremely low costs. His motivation was to provide medical centers across the world that do not benefit from proper funding with a mechanism that requires no electricity and close to no effort to operate.

Paper Centrifuge Concept and Modern-Day Applications

Hence, the paper centrifuge was born. The “device” costs roughly 20 cents to make. A modern-day centrifuge delivers the blood test’s results in a minute and costs approximately $1.000 apiece. Manu Prakash’s design requires no electricity and can be carried anywhere in the pocket. Furthermore, his invention delivers accurate results in one minute and a half, for only 20 cents apiece.

So far, the team of researchers has successfully placed the paper centrifuge in doctor’s hands in Madagascar, where medical facilities do not have the resources for more advanced machinery. The hand-powered device’s design was published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering on Tuesday, January 10th.

The paper centrifuge is basically a paper disc threaded through two strings of wire that are fixed on handles. Pulling on the handles makes the threads unwind and the disc spin. Relaxing and pulling the strings repeatedly makes the disc spin faster.

Experiments Involving the New Design

Manu Prakash’s team of researchers tested other household items that could be used as cheap alternatives to modern medical equipment. However, salad spinners, yo-yos, and egg beaters give poorer results than most modern diagnostic tests.

Nevertheless, after the scientists tweaked the whirligig’s design and equipped it with a capillary tube with a blood sample in it, they were able to determine the “paperfuge” was giving accurate results in only half a minute over the time it takes a $1.000 modern centrifuge to deliver the same results.

Image Source: Wikipedia

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