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Bioengineer Manu Prakash recreates expensive scientific equipment using incredibly cheap materials. This quest has led to a paper microscope with components that cost less than a dollar and a music-box-inspired lab-on-a-chip that could cost 4500 times less than comparable devices. His latest contribution to what he calls "frugal science" is a paper centrifuge powered solely by human hands.
To test a person for diseases such as malaria, HIV, and tuberculosis, scientists spin samples of the patient's blood, urine, or stool in a centrifuge. Thanks to centrifugal force, the spinning motion separates cells of different weights—such as pathogens in the blood—from the rest of the sample. Researchers can then look at the separated cells under the microscope to identify the disease.
Centrifuge - Revolutions - Minute - Rpm - Field
But a bench-top centrifuge, which whirls at around 20,000 revolutions per minute (rpm), makes for less-than-ideal field equipment. It's bulky and heavy, costs hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars, and relies on electricity. Some researchers have tested out salad spinners or egg beaters as possible low-cost alternatives, but...
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