While many MIT students busily build break-dancing robots or websites that let your pets network better at doggie daycare, PhD candidate Danielle Zurovcik has designed a $3 pump to drastically speed up the healing of countless patients in the aftermath of Haiti’s recent earthquake.
The device simplifies and lightens a common piece of medical equipment called a negative-pressure pump. Used to accelerate wound healing and reduce the frequency that bandages need to be changed, even the most portable of these pumps costs $100 a day to rent, and weighs 10 pounds with batteries. The pump Zurovcik invented costs $3 total, weighs less than half a pound, uses only 14 microwatts of power, and can be charged with a hand pump.
The pump works by sucking bacteria and rancid fluids out of a wound, and by encouraging healing blood flow. Inspired by a toilet plunger, Zurovcik’s device consists of nothing more than a bellows pump, a plastic tube, and a fitting that covers the wound or amputation site.
Zurovcik originally intended to test the device in Rwanda, but when the Haitian earthquake hit, she joined up with a wound-care team, and deployed her new invention. It may not be the most mysterious quantum doodad or augmented-reality monocle, but Zurovcik’s pump proves that sometimes the most useful futuristic technology is actually just simpler, cheaper, easier, and fills a proven need.