Rice University Students Invented Salad Spinner Centrifuge to Detect Anemia

In the Beyond Traditional Borders program at Rice University, students collaborate to create ingenious alternatives to medical devices for use in Third World countries (that otherwise wouldn't be able to afford conventional technologies). Their prototypes are sent to third world countries for real-life trials.

Over at NeatoBambino, my lovely wife Tiffany blogged about The Baby Bubbler, a portable breathing machine for babies with respiratory illnesses.

I, for one, am taken with the Salad Spinner Centrifuge that can be used to detect anemia:

A group of college students has turned a salad spinner into a rudimentary centrifuge that medical clinics in developing countries could use to manually separate blood without electricity. They built it for about $30—including the spinner—using plastic lids, cut-up combs, yogurt containers, and a hot-glue gun.

This summer Rice University sophomore Lila Kerr will take one to Ecuador and freshman Lauren Theis will take one to Swaziland. Another team member will take one to Malawi to field test the device, named the Sally Centrifuge. The students expect to continue work on it after their summer treks.

The centrifuge was designed as a project for a global health class. The students were asked to develop an inexpensive, portable tool that could diagnose anemia without access to electricity.

They found that a salad spinner met those criteria. When tiny capillary tubes that contain about 15 microliters of blood are spun in the device for 10 minutes, the blood separates into heavier red blood cells and lighter plasma. The hematocrit, or ratio of red blood cells to the total volume, measured with a gauge held up to the tube, can tell clinicians if a patient is anemic. That detail is critical for diagnosing malnutrition, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and malaria.


Previously on Neatorama: MIT Student Invents $3 Negative Pressure Pump for Impoverished Countries

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Manual centrifuges have been around for decades, and are commonly used in medical clinics in countries with out electricity.
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I keep telling my kids that there is so little we know and so much to achieve. This is a great example! With some ingenuity and a helpful heart, this group of college students has potentially saved lives. Thanks for sharing the story! -JustanEducator
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