Designer Jack Albert Trew has developed a centrifuge that is powered by a spinning bike wheel, which could be used as an inexpensive way to conduct blood tests in remote areas of developing countries.
Dubbed Spokefuge, the device presents a simplified method of blood diagnosis that doesn’t rely on electricity. Often, the healthcare market in developing countries is flooded with gadgets and tools that have been created in developed areas and are therefore not tailored to meet local needs. Some rely too heavily on electricity (which can pose problems for people in areas where electricity supply is irregular), some equipment does not come with instructions in the local language (such as these incubators that were sent to Uganda with instructions in Dutch) while others are just too expensive. Trew set out with the specific goal to create a diagnostic device that was uncomplicated to use, transportable, cost-effective and could be used off the grid.
The concept utilises what is already a popular form of transport in parts of Africa: getting around by bicycle. The device could help test for anaemia and leukaemia and works like this: a blood sample is put into a standard capillary tube which is then placed into a rubber case. Via Wired: “The sleeve is slipped inside the swinging arm attachment that clips onto the bike spokes and spins for about 10 minutes, the amount of time it takes to sufficiently separate a sample at speeds of more than 750 rpm. The resulting sample, once separated, can be compared to a microhematocrit chart.” Trew created the Spokefuge’s parts using a 3D printer.
The World Health Organization estimates that up to 70 percent of medical equipment that is donated to developing countries ends up in a closet gathering dust. The reasons for this are manifold: the products haven’t been designed specifically for the region where they are sent to (as outlined above); while a lack of local technicians and available spare parts means repairing broken equipment is almost impossible.
Inventions – such as the Spokefuge, which in 2014 was listed as a finalist in the Dyson Awards – that take local needs and conditions into account present valuable prospects for implementing effective, impactful intiatives in developing regions.