Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?

Salad Spinner Made Into Life-Saving Centrifuge 87

lucidkoan writes "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 in the developing world, enabling them to separate blood to detect diseases like anemia without electricity."


This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Salad Spinner Made Into Life-Saving Centrifuge

Comments Filter:
  • Irans elite military units placed orders for large quantities of salad spinners from early Tuesday. UN officials release statement citing possible miscalculation of sanction effectiveness.
  • This seems like something actually interesting to read! Can we swap kdawson for samzenpus please.
  • Nice work, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Angst Badger ( 8636 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @11:01AM (#32085326)

    This is clever thinking on the part of the students, but hand-cranked centrifuges have been around for a long time. They're not terribly expensive, they're sturdy as hell, and they're durable and easy to sterilize -- which almost certainly cannot be said of something made of disposable plastics and hot glue.

    Besides, if you're in a part of the developing world where you have surplus salad shooters and the electricity to power your hot glue gun -- which is, come to think of it, a good description of the eighth grade science classroom where I first encountered a manual centrifuge -- you can probably afford the manual centrifuge.

    • by ciaohound ( 118419 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @11:10AM (#32085498)

      not terribly expensive, they're sturdy as hell, and they're durable and easy to sterilize

      Say, that would make a great salad spinner!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by dkuntz ( 220364 )

      Chances are, imo, at least, is that they'd be manufactured somewhere where there was electricity, as well as surplus salad shooters. And while manual centrifuges may be inexpensive, can you really get more inexpensive that bulk buying plastic salad shooters and refills for hot glue guns? This, to me, sounds like something that could be sold in developing nations for $5-10 per unit, if not less. And being all manually powered, I dont see why soaking it in bleach, or boiling water wouldnt help sterilize it

      • You know how when you use your hot-glue gun you leave the stick inside as well as the melted glue and next time you turn it on it melts?

        Same would happen if you would try to autoclave/soak in boiling water something glued with hot glue.

        The best part is that it probably would not fall right off - the bond would get weaker and weaker until on third or fourth use ampules of blood start flying across the room.

        • Sooooo, you're saying it could also double as a special effects generating item allowing Hollywood to outsource these things to the third world as well.

          • An egg-beater would be much more suitable for such a purpose.

            Which is incidentally another kitchen utensil that could also be used as a manual centrifuge.
            Though, some steps would have to be taken first so the samples for blood analysis don't end up in the same location as the coloring used for special effects.
            Namely, all around the room.

      • Manual Centrifuge, retail pricing: $73. Four tubes, clamps to a table.

        Salad Spinner: $32
        Combs, Glue, miscellaneous: $5
        Labor: $20/hour
        Call it $50.

        Personally, I think that the metal centrifuge will likely last decades while the spinner would be lucky to last 2 years. I'm not sure of the spinner's ability to stand up to sanitizing bleach solutions, and you can't autoclave it. Add in the ability to spin 4 tubes over 1, the centrifuge provides more capacity, longer life, higher spin speeds (950 [] vs 3k RPM), a

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by patman600 ( 669121 )
          Not to nitpick, but I just can't help myself. This device can actually spin 30 tubes, not 1. So, 7.5x more than a manual centrifuge. I'll give you the other points, but I am genuinely curious as to how important sanitation is in this context. The stated use case is checking for anemia in undeveloped countries, how necessary is sanitizing the centrifuge for that?
          • Huh, you're right. I missed that line in the article. That does change it's utility quite a bit, depending.

            It takes twice as long as the 10k RPM battery model, but does 7 times as much. The metal manual centrifuges I found do 4 as well, but with a 3k RPM it's probably right in between for how long it takes.

            Still, I imagine that a professionally produced version could be not that much more expensive and far more durable.

            Maybe get a sightly faster spin while you're at it.

            • by blair1q ( 305137 )

              >a professionally produced version could be not that much more expensive and far more durable

              Looked at the prices of newly-developed medical equipment lately?

              The key to healthcare reform was to cap profits for suppliers to the healthcare industry. None of the dance around insurers was necessary, and none of it did anything to stop the real cost driver.

              • Looked at the prices of newly-developed medical equipment lately?

                To get technical, this is lab equipment, not medical. You're spinning blood, not installing a shunt.

                Looking at the various devices in question, you could probably convert the 4 tube centrifuge to a larger one simply by putting a different 'top' on the unit. Perhaps increase the size of the crank/shaft a bit. Heck, it might start slower, but with a uniform disc and good bearings, the larger unit wouldn't be significantly harder to turn either. Might even be easier, what with having lower air resistance a

        • by blair1q ( 305137 )

          String $1

          Tie a bunch of test-tubes onto a piece of string and whirl it around.

          Same effect, same energy input, and for 1/75th the cost you get enough to last you several years.

          • Puts too much strain on the tubes; you want some more positive control. the metal arms help keep the tube aligned and supported.

            Though that would make for an interesting test - about a meter or two of cord, and a dude spinning it around his head. Lower RPM is compensated for by larger radius.

    • by irreverant ( 1544263 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @11:29AM (#32085810)
      What I took from the article was not that they re-invented the wheel, but where able to use analytical thinking and problem solving skills TO re-invent the wheel. They were able to think outside the box and develop a centrifuge (that works) from parts that you can find around a house. I think these students are creative - partner that with their education and it's amazing to think what they will be possible of doing or making in the future. Our future lie's in the hands of our youth - i feel good about our future with students like this.
      • by D Ninja ( 825055 )

        They were able to think outside the box

        I think you mean, "They were able to think outside the salad spinner."

        • It's a sales term. While it's in the box, it's a salad spinner, but once the box is opened and the product removed, who knows what the end user will do with it? That's "thinking outside the box."
    • You're missing the point

      After screening for deadly pathogens in someone's blood, you can make them a salad. Who doesn't love a good salad?
    • Thanks!

      $48.50 [] and you are right, that thing looks sturdy as hell... Awesome, now I am going to stop watching the university surplus website for a centrifuge, we homeschool my kids and I have really been wanting one!
      and yeah a salad spinner version would break instantly.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by raddan ( 519638 ) *
      No kidding. What's next? Ox-powered cars? Have we forgotten that centrifuges predate electric motors []?
    • Salad spinner being somewhat a "technology" that only "1st or 2nd worlder" will use I find it rather hard to comment on the fact that two girls have come up with a way to use a salad shooter as a centrifuge without coming off all chauvinistic.
      You know... women... diet... salad...

      Cause, there is a MUCH MORE readily available manually powered centrifuge that doesn't even need the hot glue gun to make it work.
      Just some duct tape, as they are using very light and rather small capillary tubes. With proper use of

      • A bicycle would be perfect - you get gears, bearings, metal tubes. All you need to build a sturdy, autoclavable hand centrifuge with probably a lot more power than the salad thingmajig. Screw and tape it together if you can't weld, and off you go.
      • Trouble with using a bike for this is that the tubes are filled with BLOOD, which could be infected, (which may be why, after all, you're spinning it, to diagnose,) and if you put it in a bike, and spin it, and get careless, BAM! BLOOD SPRAYING EVERYWHERE if one of the tubes breaks. Much less likely to break inside a salad spinner, and even if it does, it's at least mostly contained. Kind of embarrassed it took a couple Rice students to think this up, and not someone from UH... I'll have to fix that some
        • 1 - You do close the tubes first. Only risk is if they start flying.
          2 - Risk of flying tubes is reduced by the fact that the force pushes the tubes into the rim - into those holes you made by removing spokes. Not out of them.
          The faster you spin, the stronger they hold in place.
          Salad-spinner-solution uses plastic combs that loosely hold the tubes in place, so they'll actually have a very real problem of flying tubes after a while.
          3 - If you are still paranoid - saran wrap.
          Although, that takes us back to "sup

    • Re:Nice work, but... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Reziac ( 43301 ) * on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @12:16PM (#32086616) Homepage Journal

      And there's an even simpler non-electrical centrifuge: a human spinning a bucket.

      My veterinarian in Montana, being a livestock vet who had little use for expensive or breakable gadgets, simply packed the blood tube in towels in a bucket, tied a rope to the bucket handle, and sent whoever was handy out to the parking lot to whirl it around their head a few dozen times. Worked fine.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Khyber ( 864651 )

      "They're not terribly expensive, they're sturdy as hell, and they're durable and easy to sterilize -- which almost certainly cannot be said of something made of disposable plastics and hot glue."

      I see someone has never DIY a full hydroponics system before using almost those exact materials - disposable plastics (cat litter buckets) and hot glue (to hold the net pots to the modified lid.)

      It's fucking TRIVIAL to clean and sterilize.

    • Besides, if you're in a part of the developing world where you have surplus salad shooters

      Begs the question of WTF is a salad spinner (or as some people are describing it, a salad "shooter")?

  • by PolyDwarf ( 156355 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @11:02AM (#32085340)

    Something I never understood about the "This could be great for the third world" items..

    Why wouldn't it be great for the first and second worlds too?

    I would assume scale and speed aren't up to par with more focused medical devices... But, for the price of one of those, you can buy a bunch of 35 dollar ones.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by scorp1us ( 235526 )

      Because of lawsuits, QA, FDA auditing and controls. We are a litigious society who will sue when we get test results messed up. Also, key to predictable results is uniformity.

      It is a sad but true thing that 3rd-world lives are not held in as high regard as 1st world lives. Look at Predator drone strikes: over 300 innocents killed. Do this in a 1st or 2nd world country and there would be more far more outage.

      • It is a sad but true thing that 3rd-world lives are not held in as high regard as 1st world lives. Look at Predator drone strikes: over 300 innocents killed. Do this in a 1st or 2nd world country and there would be more far more outage.

        Garbage. Hundreds of thousands of innocents were killed in bombings of first-world nations during the second world war, with far less outrage. You have no idea what you're talking about.

      • What nonsense. We just have more lawyers here in the First World. It isn't a good thing, either.

        The FDA acts as a protective agent. The barrier to entry for new medical device startups is staggering, and the existing large Medical Device Manufacturers have a warm cordial relationship with the FDA for that reason. They're quite satisfied to charge the FDA mandated markups.

        • Well, lawyers and courts are key. But they are still effectively valued less. And effectiveness is all that matters, in these matters.

          But hey, don't blame the messenger. I find it atrocious too.

    • by snooo53 ( 663796 ) *
      Agreed! Like the cheap drinking water straw thing... good for backpacking. The pixelqi screens for the OLPC... why are we still waiting on first world versions of these? I mean maybe in this case it's not worth it to have someone sitting there spinning samples all day, but I definitely see the potential market for these types of items
    • It would be even better to link the two. Like you buy a first world salad spinner centrifuge and it pays for a third world person to get one too. Like they did when OLPC first came out

    • In the first and second worlds, electricity is cheap and reliable and labour required to spin a manual centrifuge is expensive. In the third world, the opposite is true.

      • The laugh, though, is that the 'reliable' electricity for this thing is apparently only needed for the hot glue gun. So, uh... I guess do the one-time glue part of assembly on a good day?

    • Why wouldn't it be great for the first and second worlds too?... But, for the price of one of those, you can buy a bunch of 35 dollar ones.

      Which is the reason why you haven't seen this in the first world. No acceptable profit margin.

      I'm surprised the article didn't come with a statement from big Pharma warning that use of such devices in the first world may constitute an unnecessary risk to the "health and well being" of the nation. And we all know that manufacturing cheap, or even affordable medical s

    • by Eivind ( 15695 )

      It could be, offcourse. But cost of equipment is strongly related to wages.

      If a man with a shovel, is $5/day, equipping him with a excavator that costs $100/day in maintenance and deprecation isn't worth it, even if it lets him get ten times the amount of work done.

      If a man with a shovel cost $100/day, equipping him with an excavator that doubles his cost, but makes him ten times as efficient, becomes a nobrainer.

      This is why the $50 shovel that is 20% better is going to be a good alternative where wages are

  • This is really a great idea, bravo to the students. Though they use
    to make hand crank centrifuges I'm pretty certain. This wouldn't
    require being clamped to the lab bench or screwed down.

    On the other hoof, were it not for salads and Vegetarians we
    wouldn't have such a cool something to hack.

    (subnote: could be other reasons a salad spinner was created.)


    • This isn't a really good idea. Like others have said this has been done already and real manual centrifuges already exist for a few dollars more. Only person this would interest is McGyver because he could clobber one together in 17.6 seconds, but if they're thinking of making these and shipping them then just send them the real centrifuges in the first place.
  • It looks like this has already been done [], and better.
  • There are interesting parts of this story, essentially the rest of the apparatus is hot melt glue, yogurt lids, etc. And it's interesting to make a medical device out of what most people would consider trash. But a Salad Spinner is a centrifuge, so I don't see why we'd focus on that.

  • Tony Stark is trapped in his kitchen, and has a terrible disease, he needs a centrifuge but only has basic kitchen utensils, Will he survive?
    • by cyp43r ( 945301 )
      Yes, he replaces his blood with a glowing liquid that also generates power and gives him a second superfluous jetpack.
  • What about duct tape and paper clips?

    MacGyver would not approve without those items included.

    It is a shame, a entire generation that would not recognize MacGyver if they met Richard Dean Anderson.

  • Can you seriously imagine someone in the third world having a salad spinner?
  • I went to high school with Lauren and I go to Rice too, but I never knew this was going on. I guess keeping to the CS and English depts would do that. Still, cool stuff.
  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @12:36PM (#32087020)

    A centrifuge used as a centrifuge. What is newswothy here? The developing world does not need this incredible level of arrogance implied here either. Of course they know how to centrifuge things without electricity. They may not have technology, but intelligence is evenly distributed (or maybe even better there, given this drastic example that at least in some places of the western world, it is rather low.)

    • Intelligence may be evenly distributed, but education is not. Education is more important because it allows one to learn from people before them.

      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        If you know that you want to centrifuge something, the step to find out how to do it is easy. This device is meaningless.

        You are right, of course, that without the knowledge about centrifuging, you cannto use it. But that is indeed an education problem, not a problem for a "device".

  • Is it powered by the "super battery" designed by Fred Edison?
  • This mite be usefull in the developing world... The problem I see is... where would you find a salad spinner in the developing world, on second thought why would anyone in the developing world even need a salad spinner, wait, why would ANYONE need a salad spinner? Since there are probably a lot of people like me that have no idea what a salad spinner is, here's a link i found []
  • can it also be used to centrifuge Uranium?

    • by f3rret ( 1776822 )

      I'm sure it could. Whether or not it'd actually do anything but whirl the uranium around really, really fast is the real question.

FORTRAN is the language of Powerful Computers. -- Steven Feiner