3. $5 chemistry kit designed for diagnostics
A music box was the inspiration behind a Stanford University-developed chemistry set that only costs $5.
Manu Prakash, an assistant professor of bioengineering at Stanford, created a small, programmable chemistry set to benefit the developing world. His original intention was to make the device to test water quality, provide affordable medical diagnostics and serve as a snake bite venom test kit.
The chemistry kit is one of three other cheap lab tools Prakash has developed, which includes the Foldscope and Paperfuge.
“In one part of our lab we’ve been focusing on frugal science and democratizing scientific tools to get them out to people around the world who will use them,” Prakash said in a press release. “I’d started thinking about this connection between science education and global health. The things that you make for kids to explore science are also exactly the kind of things that you need in the field because they need to be robust and they need to be highly versatile.”
A music box that Prakash’s wife brought home one Christmas inspired him to create the chemistry kit. The paper ribbon, pins and concentric disk mechanics led Prakash to use the rotating pins to pump fluids through tiny channels and control valves and droplet generators in a way that could be programmed.
The chemistry kit’s prototype featured a hand-cranked wheel and paper tape that had periodic holes that were punched by the user. When a pin entered a hole in the tape, it flips and a pump that releases a single drop from a channel is activated. The most basic design can control 15 independent pumps, valves and droplet generators simultaneously.
While the original prototype used parts from a music box, Prakash and his partner on the project, graduate student George Korir, have created other versions using a 3D printer. They suggest that the actuator, paper tape and silicon tape can be built for different uses and can be made from cheap, durable materials that cost less than $5.