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A 20-cent lifesaving tool that’s made with only paper, string, and PVC pipe

By Hannah Yi

The MacArthur “genius” fellow Manu Prakash, known for his “frugal science” inventions like a $1 origami microscope, has done it again. His latest creation is a 20-cent medical device that’s made of only paper, string, and two pieces of PVC pipe. It’s called the paperfuge, and may one day replace expensive centrifuges that can cost $1,000.

Centrifuges are valuable tools for doctors to diagnose diseases. They require electricity in order to rapidly rotate containers containing fluids. The rotation separates each component by density, so blood can be divided into red blood cells, plasma, and parasites. Prakash is taking his paperfuge to poor countries like Madagascar, where he hopes it will help diagnose diseases like malaria, African sleeping sickness, HIV, and tuberculosis.

Watch our video to see how the paperfuge works.