Meet the Inexpensive Centrifuge That Only Costs 20-Cents

Stanford bioengineers have invented an inexpensive blood centrifuge.

On Wednesday, Stanford bioengineers announced a 20-cent hand powered device that can centrifuge blood. The device has the capability of rotating up to 125,000 revolutions per minute and can separate blood plasma from red blood cells in 1.5 minutes, without ever needing electricity.

The study was published in the January issue of Nature Biomedical Engineering and the device works in the same way as spinning toys. Researchers looked at toys such as yo-yos and whirligigs. After two weeks, Stanford scientists used a whirligig and discovered it moved fast enough to centrifuge blood.

Assistant professor of bioengineering at Stanford and lead researcher in the study, Manu Prakash, announced in a statement that, “There are more than a billion people around the world who have no infrastructure, no roads, no electricity. I realized that if we wanted to solve a critical problem like malaria diagnosis, we needed to design a human-powered centrifuge that costs less than a cup of coffee.”

Prakash added that with their inexpensive “paperfuges”, the Stanford invented device can match centrifuges that cost between $1,000 to $5,000.

Centrifuges are crucial for detecting diseases including the highly contagious and even deadly illnesses such as malaria, HIV, and tuberculosis. Stanford researchers explain that this low-cost alternative allows for physicians to diagnose diseases in areas that do not have electricity. The device can also help those who cannot afford expensive centrifuges. That is good news for the 24.7 million people living with HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa.

How does a centrifuge work?

Stanford bioengineers have invented an inexpensive blood centrifuge. (Image Credit: Akimov Igor / Shutterstock, Inc.)

Traditionally, a centrifuge is a device that rotates an object around a fixed point spinning in a circle. A centrifuge uses basic physics and moves denser particles towards the bottom and lighter parts to the top. With that being said, centrifuge rotors should not be touched while it is moving. In addition, the spinning motor must be balanced to avoid serious injury.