The microcentrifuge is one of the most fundamental devices used in biological research. It can separate a variety of important substances including DNA and proteins from liquid samples, making it extremely versatile and crucial to almost every protocol.
However with modern microcentrifuges costing nearly $300 or more, it has been extremely difficult to integrate the technology within both STEM education biotechnology labs and basic labs within the home. Additionally, currently offered microcentrifuges have adopted intimidating user interfaces, making the centrifugation process a lot more complicated than it needs to be.
We created Polyfuge in order to democratize centrifugation technology for everyone. Polyfuge is an inexpensive open-source Arduino-based DIY microcentrifuge kit that costs only $96.
The Basics of Microcentrifuges
Microcentrifuges are able to separate various substances from solution by density through harnessing a force known as centrifugal force. When an object is spun in circular motion, centrifugal force is exerted outwards away from the center of the circular path. This is why you feel pushed against the outer edge of roller coasters during loops!
Biological centrifuges use this same principle except with liquid mixtures. Through spinning tubes containing liquid samples at very high RPMs, microcentrifuges use centrifugal force to separate the substances within the sample by density.
Example of Biological Centrifugation
An excellent example of biological centrifugation is the centrifugation of blood. While blood generally appears as a uniform red mixture, the centrifugation of blood separates the substance into three layers: red blood cells, white blood cells & platelets, and plasma.
At a price of only $96, Polyfuge is currently the most affordable microcentrifuge on the market, allowing us to bring biotechnology into the world like never before.
Current microcentrifuge technology has been solely targeted towards formal research labs, making it extremely difficult for STEM students and casual lovers of biology to experiment with biotechnology protocols within science classrooms and labs within the home.
Polyfuge solves this problem through providing a user-friendly and accessible alternative to modern centrifuge options.
We designed Polyfuge with a simplistic, lightweight, and sturdy design that occupies very little space on the lab table. It is constructed from interlocking panels reinforced with M3 nuts and bolts, making the overall structure highly robust. For rotation, we utilized a high-speed 2300kv brushless motor for effective but controlled centrifugation. In order to prevent users from directly making contact with the rotor during centrifugation sessions, we have implemented an optical sensor to detect when the lid is open and subsequently stop the motor, ensuring user safety.
To make Polyfuge truly for everyone, we recognized the need for a straightforward and effective user-interface. That's why we created Polyfuge with a basic rotary encoder-LCD screen UI. Through directly prompting the user for speed and time inputs, we made it so that Polyfuge can be operated by absolutely anyone without difficulty.
In addition to open-source hardware, the software for Polyfuge will be open-source as well. We decided to control our electronics using the Arduino IDE in order to keep Polyfuge affordable and easy to use. Polyfuge contains a dedicated USB port for uploading code if the user decides to modify or improve our provided code.
Make Your Own Biology Equipment!
One of the amazing things about Polyfuge is that it's a microcentrifuge that you can assemble yourself! We are huge proponents of the DIYbio movement, and our Polyfuge kits provide a great way for users to build their own lab equipment. The assembly process is extremely easy and requires no soldering at all. All you need to do is assemble the frame using the provided M3 bolts and nuts, and plug the components into the main circuit board.
Building DIY lab equipment is great for STEM classroom environments, where students can learn what components are needed to make microcentrifuges work. Assembling Polyfuge is also a great activity for groups and encourages collaborative work.
We strongly believe that the best way to contribute to developments in biotechnology is to enhance the accessibility of biological equipment for everyone. With more passionate people working together, we can accelerate the pace of biological research and discovery like never before. There are plenty of brilliant minds out there, and our goal is to provide the instruments needed for those people to make change.
Polyfuge was created in order to help bring research equipment into classrooms and homes. Students interested in pursuing biological research fields may use Polyfuge to gain firsthand experience with basic laboratory protocols. Through the democratization of centrifugation technology, we hope to allow anyone interested in biotechnology to access affordable microcentrifuges.
With every Polyfuge kit, we provide both a Casein Precipitation and DNA Extraction protocol so that you can conduct low-cost experiments right after assembly with reagents you can find in your kitchen! With our Casein Precipitation experiment, explore how the isoelectric point of casein affects its solubility through centrifuging proteins from milk. In our DNA Extraction protocol, gain a deeper understanding of DNA isolation through extracting your own genomic DNA from a spit sample. Polyfuge opens endless opportunities for scientific thought and experimentation!
With your support, we will also create an online database of user-submitted biological protocols tested with Polyfuge, so that users can share their self-designed experiments with the rest of the Polyfuge community, making the applications of Polyfuge truly limitless.
While Polyfuge possesses great potential in widening the accessibility of biotechnology, we need your support in order to maximize Polyfuge's influence everywhere.
Kickstarter provides us with a platform through which we can project the ideas behind Polyfuge to a much larger audience. Through backing our campaign, you are not only contributing to the development and mass production of Polyfuge, but you are also playing a crucial part in expanding the integration of Polyfuge within various schools and communities around the world.
Ultimately, the future of Polyfuge depends on you - we hope that you make pledges and spread the word to help make Polyfuge a reality. Support the next generation of affordable laboratory equipment.
We've brought Polyfuge to several STEM education conferences and received exceptional feedback and interest. During our showcase at STEMteachersNYC at Columbia University, many STEM teachers expressed great excitement at the prospect of bringing centrifugation technology into classroom environments with Polyfuge. Additionally, the concept of physically building biotechnology equipment provided an interdisciplinary experience, rooted in both biology and engineering, that many STEM educators were eager to include within their curricula.
One of the primary audiences we hope to reach with Polyfuge are students, so we decided to bring and demo Polyfuge at Montgomery High School's STEM Day event for both students and parents to try. New Jersey high school and middle school students showed immense enthusiasm for the hands-on approach that Polyfuge takes in displaying research protocols, and how Polyfuge would allow them to fully visualize the processes taught within their biology textbooks.
Our adventures to various STEM-related conferences have shown us that teachers and students from many communities are excited about what Polyfuge can do. Now we need your help to further expand the influence of Polyfuge and deliver this affordable biotechnology experience to the rest of the world.
With your support, we plan on designing another rotor for use with 0.2 mL PCR tube strips. Our current Polyfuge prototype already supports interchangeable rotors, so we would like to make use of that feature through experimenting with different rotor designs for varying tube sizes (our current rotor is compatible with standard 1.5 mL and 2.0 mL microcentrifuge tubes).
Additionally, we plan on making improvements to the current Polyfuge circuit board in order to make the assembly process even more simplistic. Through reducing the number of required pins, the user will have less connections to make and consequently an easier assembly experience.
We tried our absolute best to reduce shipping costs as much as possible, which is why we established free shipping for all U.S. domestic orders. For our international backers, we have set a flat rate of $36 for both our individual and classroom Polyfuge rewards.
Production for our Polyfuge kits will begin as soon as the funding period ends, meaning that you can expect your Polyfuge kit to arrive before the end of 2017. Throughout our production process, you will receive frequent email updates regarding our progress and your shipment status.
Polyfuge was invented by Jason Wu following his research internship at the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy and the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute at Rutgers University in 2016. Following his work, he became extremely concerned by how inaccessible biological instruments were outside of large established research labs. Jason consequently created Polyfuge in order to provide cost-effective lab equipment available for everyone. Through Polyfuge, he hopes to proliferate and heighten public interest in biotechnology.
Risks and challenges
Our current Polyfuge prototypes have not demonstrated any issues whatsoever. The units that we will be shipping out to backers will be nearly identical to the functioning prototypes with very slight modifications to the circuit board. Throughout the post-funding period, we will be providing constant updates to our backers regarding the status of our production and shipment schedule. Consequently, we do not expect any risks whatsoever.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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