When Jason Wu completed his research internship at the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy and the Environment and Occupational Health Services Institute at Rutgers he noticed that lab equipment was difficult to obtain outside of research laboratories. Inspired by the idea that biotechnology instruments should be available to anyone, he started to develop a low-cost microcentrifuge. His project Polyfuge is now running a Kickstarter campaign to help in the production of the centrifuges and raise awareness about the device. Polyfuge is a microcentrifuge using open-source code and the Arduino platform that costs $96.
There’s a great quote in the Kickstarter campaign video from Jason Sullivan – he says that the mindset in the modern STEM lab is changing from needing to buy lab equipment to finding a way to build lab equipment. Wu presented Polyfuge at STEM education conferences, including STEMteachersNYC at Columbia University and Montgomery High School’s STEM Day event. The demonstrations gave the project feedback and also insight into new ways that students might use the microcentrifuge to perform research.
Polyfuge comes with two experiments, a Casein Precipitation experiment using milk and a DNA Extraction protocol that uses spit samples. These two experiments are already a great base for sparking student interest in bioresearch, and the team is planning an online database where users can submit test results that come from Polyfuge. The current rotor is compatible with 1.5 and 2.0 milliLiter microcentrifuge tubes. The unit consists of 3D printed casing, an LCD display, the Arduino controller and a 3D printed rotor. The campaign page does not discuss the unit’s motor. Users can control the speed and time of the centrifuge through the LCD user interface.
We’ve written recently about low-cost centrifuge tools and the benefits of making medical equipment available to anyone. This is a great entry into affordable and DIY research level equipment. I’m always happy to see open-source coding using the Arduino platform and believe that most of the time if you release the code to the end users of a product they will find a way to improve it. This Kickstarter campaign has already hit its curious goal of $1,442 and fully assembled kits are expected to ship in December 2017.