When’s the last time you heard of a salad spinner that saves lives? Two Rice University students have transformed a simple salad spinner into an electricity-free centrifuge that can be used to diagnose diseases on the cheap. Created by Lauren Theis and Lila Kerr, the ingenious DIY centrifuge is cobbled together using a salad spinner, some plastic lids, combs, yogurt containers, and a hot glue gun. The simple and easily-replicated design could be an invaluable tool for clinics the developing world, enabling them to separate blood to detect diseases like anemia without electricity.
The students discovered that a salad spinner can separate 15 microliters of blood into plasma and heavy red blood cells after spinning for just 10 minutes. By holding a gauge up to the tube, Theis and Kerr are able to measure a patient’s hematocrit (ratio of red blood cells to total volume), which can indicate anemia. And while anemia itself isn’t deadly, the condition can point to other ailments like HIV, malnutrition, and malaria.
The so-called Sally Centrifuge will get its first real-world experience this summer, when Theis and Kerr field test the $30 device on patients in Ecuador, Swaziland, and Malawi. Not bad for a couple of college kids.
Photo Credits: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University