Children's whirligig toy is the inspiration behind a 20-cent blood centrifuge that was developed by Stanford bioengineers.
A whirligig toy can be built easily. All it requires is a button through two holes of which a loop of twine goes. Once the loop ends are pulled, the button spins like a top.
Inspired by this model of a child’s toy, Stanford bioengineers have created an economical centrifuge. This centrifuge separates blood into its individual components. The time it takes to do this is one and a half minutes. It is built from paper, twine and plastic.
This “paperfuge” can spin at a speed of 125,000 rpm and exercise forces that reach 30,000 Gs. One of the creators has said that it is the quickest spinning object that has a human element behind it.
“To the best of my knowledge, it’s the fastest spinning object driven by human power,” said Manu Prakash, an assistant professor of bioengineering at Stanford.
Centrifuges are necessary to find out more about illnesses such as malaria, sleeping sickness, AIDS and TB. This one is very reasonable in price and enables accurate diagnosis in the poor.
It can be employed in such backward areas where these diseases are most common. A centrifuge separates blood components and allows harmful agents to be detected easily.
Usually the blood is spun in a drum. The fluids are separated by density into various layers. Red blood cells accumulate at the base while plasma floats at the top. Parasites like malaria get confined to the middle.
The people in backwards areas which have no electricity cannot afford electric centrifuges. They need something more handy like this new centrifuge invented after taking inspiration from a child’s toy.
This particular centrifuge costs less than a cup of coffee. Several researchers worked on making the “paperfuge” after they saw that a kids toy uses the same principle. It was indeed a labor of love that went into creating this economical centrifuge.
The object is a fine example of mathematics. This simple centrifuge matches those that cost from $1000 to $5000. The device’s security standards were also improved by the inventors.
The “paperfuge” happens to be the third invention made by this group of Stanford bioengineers. The other two are the foldoscope and a programmable kid’s chemistry set. The former was a very cheap microscope.
The latter was something meant for children yet with a difference. The thing is to grant access to most of the billions of people in the world to science and scientific tools. This will hopefully create a more disease-free and healthier global village.
The physics and test results of this device are published in the Jan. 10 issue of Nature Biomedical Engineering.