Student invents low-tech bicycle-powered blood centrifuge

© Jack Trew

The fight against one of the most common nutritional blood disorders in the world may be getting an effective low-tech tool that could be used for better diagnosis in the developing world.

It's estimated that the blood disorder anemia affects up to a full quarter of the world's population, and can go undetected in many individuals. In the West, with easy access to the most modern diagnostic equipment in the world, getting an accurate diagnosis, and even a second opinion, is not that big of a deal. But in many places in the developing world, where access to something as simple as an electric centrifuge is hard to come by, getting an accurate diagnosis can be a real challenge.

Jack Trew, a design student at Birmingham City University in the UK, may have a solution, at least when it comes to centrifuging blood in rural areas of the developing world, because it relies on one of the most common machines to be found there, the bicycle.

Trew's Spokefuge, which is one of 20 designs in the running for the 2014 Dyson Award, consists of just a handful of parts that form a single unit for holding a patient's blood sample. The units are attached to the spokes of a rear bicycle wheel (in even numbers only, to stay balanced), which is then spun for 10 minutes to centrifuge the blood.

"This simple device has the potential to replicate the results produced by an expensive electric centrifuge in areas that are perhaps too underdeveloped or remote for modern medical equipment to be used. Africa does not need western medical donations, they need design specific to them." - Trew

The Spokefuge is designed to be used with the bike upright on a stand, or upside down and pedaled by hand. Although it doesn't mention it on the Dyson Foundation website, according to Co.Exist, the bikes could also be ridden as transport for ten minutes with the units on them, such as getting back to the clinic from a patient visit.

Read more about the Spokefuge at the James Dyson Award page, or check out all of the current contenders.

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