STATES CHRONICLE – A human-powered paper centrifuge which was inspired by an ancient toy could mark a breakthrough in the detection of health problems.
The buzzer toy or the whirligig. Who has not played at least once with such a toy? An ancient invention, the device has a widespread history. Its traces were found across the colonial United States and medieval Europe. It was even discovered in ancient China.
A whirligig has a simple mechanism. A string passes through the center of a circular disk. After the string is pulled, the buzzer will begin spinning. Now, this simple toy mechanism has acquired a medical use.
More exactly, scientists have invented a paper centrifuge. They have dubbed it the “paperfuge”. The device was developed by a team of Stanford University researchers. They were led by Manu Prakash.
A research on the matter was released earlier this week. It was published in the Nature Biomedical Engineering journal. The study was released on January 10. It was titled as follows. “Hand-powered ultralow-cost paper centrifuge”.
The paper centrifuge could potentially be a breakthrough. It could offer a simple solution to a big need. Centrifuges are an essential medical tool. Laboratories and hospitals from around the world rely on them. They are often used in disease detection tests.
Still, such devices do have some issues. They are quite bulky and expensive. And they require electric current. As such, they are hard to come by in some areas.
Poorer regions are the most affected by such a lack. Tropical diseases have been known to appear in such areas. But this lack can limit the respective healthcare abilities.
Scientists have been trying to solve this issue. They tried to develop a non-electric centrifuge, amongst others. Manual egg beaters or salad spinners were tested. However, they were proven ineffective.
Now, the Stanford researchers found an unexpected solution. Their paper centrifuge is quite unique. It is based on the aforementioned ancient toy. Through it, they created a paper-based, lightweight product. This is also human-powered and has an ultra-low cost.
Their device has a 27 cents price. But its results speed is on point. It can detect malaria in the tested blood sample in about 15 minutes.
A paperfuge could reach quite a spinning speed. Tests showed that the paper centrifuge can spin at 125,000 RPM. RPM are revolutions per minute. Its exerted centrifugal forces were the equivalent of 30,000 g’s.
It is many times faster than other, similar devices. The paperfuge is considered the fastest ever recorded human-powered device.
Its structure is similar to the buzzer toy’s. It works by pulling on a pair of handles. These unwind the device’s strings. As such, a central disk starts rotating. After a complete unwound, the string starts to rewind. This results in a supercoiled structure.
Such a paper device was able to reach around 20,000 RPM. Conventional hospital benchtop centrifuges also exert such a speed. The paper centrifuge was seen to separate whole blood and result in pure plasma. This process took less than 90 seconds. It was also used to test for malaria. This took just about 15 minutes.
Clinicians test for diseases by separating the blood. Such samples are broken into different parts. These are further analyzed, in accordance with the need.
The paperfuge was tested on the field, in Madagascar. Tests showed that it can be used almost anywhere. And they could be handled by basically anyone. As such, vital medical tests could be carried instantly carried out.
And the paper centrifuge is also easy to manufacture. This can enable an immediate, fast mass distribution, according to the study authors. It could help solve a vital issue.
They managed to create a basic paperfuge out of wood, paper, and fishing wire. A more complex structure was made out of 3D-printed materials and plastic.
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