The centrifuge is one of the most important diagnostic tools for detecting diseases like malaria and African sleeping sickness.
Unfortunately, it cannot be used in areas where power is unavailable or erratic.
Two female Biomedical Engineering students of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, have developed cheaper hand-powered equipment.
They achieved the feat by converting a whirligig, an age-old local playing device, known in Akan as Akata.
A centrifuge is a high-speed liquid sampling spinning device. It makes heavier materials to travel towards its bottom tube quicker than under force of normal gravity.
In the case of blood, less heavy plasma stays afloat while parasites like malaria-causing plasmodium settle in the middle and blood cells at the bottom tube.
“In malaria diagnosis, centrifuges are very crucial though they are expensive. The cheapest price you can have is about 12,000 cedis and poor communities in the village can’t have it,” said Prince Odame, their supervisor.
The whirligig, locally known as ‘Akata’ is made of flattened crown
cork. Two holes at the centre provide a holding place for twine for
The characteristic humming sound it makes in motion gives it the name, ‘Akatahin’ in Akan.
Final-year Biomedical engineering students, Sanaa Mehmood and Rose Adu Darko, together with the supervisor, Prince Odame, sought to make ‘Akata’ a formidable medical tool.
A capillary tube is used to draw blood samples and fixed inside the straw.
As the operator moves the handle back and forth, it produces a force called torque which causes the disc to rotate.