MacGyver Would Be Proud: Scientists Make Centrifuges from Eggbeaters

DiscoblogBy Nina BaiOct 15, 2008 8:10 PM


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Centrifuges are a pain to carry around. They also cost hundreds of dollars and need to be plugged in. All of which means that medical facilities in poor rural areas often go without this essential piece of diagnostic equipment that's used to separate blood plasma for detecting infectious diseases.

Now, Harvard scientists have developed a portable, manually-operated centrifuge that does the job, and it only costs $2.50.To top it all off, it’s even dishwasher safe.

The scientists purchased an ordinary eggbeater from a local grocery store, removed one of the rotor blades, and taped a thin plastic tube containing blood to the remaining blade. Spinning the handle of the eggbeater at a comfortably brisk pace can fling the tube of blood round and round at a rotational speed of 1200RPM.That’s enough to separate blood cells from blood plasma, the clear liquid part of blood used to run cholesterol assays or to screen for diseases such as Hepatitis B and cysticercosis. Right now, infectious diseases cause up to half of all deaths in developing countries.

Just about anyone can operate an eggbeater centrifuge, and multiple samples can be spun at once by simply taping on more tubes.

And while we’re on the topic, here’s another everyday object with a higher purpose: Brassiere as Anti-Terrorism Facemask

Related Content:

DISCOVER: Infectious Diseases

DISCOVER: Blood Without Fear

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Image: iStockphoto

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