Design of centrifuges for sample preparation in low-resource settings

Paul Down, Department of Art, Art History, and Design (UND); Ann-Marie Conrado, Department of Art, Art History, and Design (UND); Industrial Design Research Associate Michael Elwell, Marya Lieberman, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry (UND)

Affordable access to a medical centrifuge would enable many diagnostic tests for humans and animals to be conducted in the field. For example, a simple centrifugal measurement of hematocrit aids in diagnosis of anemia, and density gradient centrifugations can greatly concentrate malaria parasites or trypanosomes in whole blood samples, enabling diagnosis by microscopy or other means. However, centrifuges are not standard equipment in many parts of the developing world. This project will design hand-powered centrifuges that could be printed on a 3-D printer or constructed from locally available parts and material. Unlike other hand-operated centrifuges,[i] these designs will include features to control and measure both centrifugation time and G-force. Students will use their basic knowledge of applied physics and the ability to extract and apply data (such as “G” force requirements) to the task of designing and constructing a manually operated centrifuge. Centrifuge performance will be characterized with polymer nanospheres of known density and with various biofluids. Students will apply math and physics principles in the real world and evaluate the validity of the team’s design. Up to three students could work on different centrifuge designs. Results could be presented at the fall ASTMH national meeting in the Global Health track.

[i] Brown J, Theis L, Kerr L, Zakhidova N, O'Connor K, Uthman M, Oden ZM, and Richards-Kortum R. Am. J. Trop. Med. Hyg., 85(2), 2011, pp. 327–332 doi:10.4269/ajtmh.2011.10-0399