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Stanford Assistant Professor Wins $50,000 Award for Developing Portable $5 Chemistry Set


Stanford Assistant Professor Wins $50,000 Award for Developing Portable $5 Chemi
Professor Manu Prakash from Stanford University won a $50,000 award for developing a portable chemistry set. The handheld device can be used to teach chemistry and in global health contexts.

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Society for Science & the Public asked scientists to re-imagine the chemistry set for the 21st century. Prakash won the prize by developing Foldscope.

Idea to make it came when his wife brought home an old music box. Its working mechanism encouraged Prakash to develop a chemistry set for 21st century. Prakash with the help of graduate student George Korir to join the music box mechanism with modern technology called a microfluidic chip.

The design is based on the use of metal pins that pass through punch card to release chemicals from individual channels. In the same way it is the ribbon in the toy that determines which song to play, punched holes determine which chemicals are released and how they react.

As many as 15 pumps can be controlled at one go, said Prakash. Another exciting thing is the prototype can be recreated for just $5. It is said that the $50,000 grant will allow the designs to be democratized with the help of 3D printers.

Prakash envisions that the tool could be used to test water safety. Chemicals released from it could test water for pH balance and contaminants. Users will be able to test water safety in an economic manner. Not only this, young science lovers can carry out their own experiments.

Earlier, chemistry kits were quite common, but with time they disappeared as parents do not want their house set on fire. But the recent development has given birth to new hopes of once again having portable chemistry kits that are safe to be kept in homes.

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