My Latest Mad Scientist Device

April 20, 2008

My friend Carolyn is getting an advanced degree through W.S.U Tri-Cities. One of the things she’s currently working on is a project that involves the use of an electric field to speed up bone regeneration. In the future, they hope to have biodegradable implants that could be placed at the site of a bone break that would create an electric current and help the bone grow faster. Right now they’re testing whether the current does have an effect on bone growth. Because of my ability with electronics, and my inability to say no to anything that sounds remotely cool, I ended up building the prototype testing device. I worked a lot with Carolyn to figure out what exactly she needed, and she was kind enough to order most of the parts and take care of getting me the materials I asked for. The electronics was up to me, though, and putting it together was my bag.

Essentially, the prototype has 12 ‘wells’ that will contain mouse bone cells immersed in a solution. They will be subjected to different currents for different durations. So I had to build something that would allow us to turn on and off the current to each well, and adjust the amount of electricity flowing through each well. The circuit is actually really simple, and the parts came from a variety of places. We’re even using straightened paper clips to dip into the solution.

It took me a lot of time to put it together. Well, one evening and one full day. But it looks great, and I’ve done a little bit of testing on it to make sure it’ll work. There are a couple extra features that will really help; the LEDs show which wells are turned on, and some pins on the side of the contraption will allow us to measure the voltage across the solution and the resistance of the solution.

I’m really excited about it, and pleased with my handiwork. It looks really slick from the top, and looking at it underneath makes a lot of sense and is pretty slick. Pretty much everything just seemed to work how I envisioned it. I did run into a couple snags along the way, but nothing I couldn’t handle.

I hope it will work for Carolyn. It’d be a shame to see it not used. Here are some pics of the device.

The Electrocuter from the top

The Electrocuter from the bottom. There's a lot of soldering and wire routing on there.

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