3D-printed adjustable volume straw pipette

Pippettes, a tool for dispersing specific volumes of liquid, are quite possibly the most used tool in any bio lab. Most biologists buy their pipettes from a manufacture and they’ll usually set you back $500-$1000 for a set*. Or you can do what Kwalus did and make your own using a 3D printer, a balloon, a bit of duct tape and a spring.

3D Printed Pipette

Check out this video of it in action:

Via: Thingiverse

*Note: If you’re in need of quality(read:calibrated) micropipettes, I highly recommend genefoo, they’re DIYbio friendly and affordable.

3d printed Straw Pipetter

Christopher Pendlebury has created a simple pipetter suitable for dispensing liquid in the 200μL to 1000μL range.


1. Print StrawPipette.stl
2. If necessary, clean up hole so straw slides in easily. The straw should stay in snugly, but shouldn’t crush the straw.
3. If required, sterilise some drinking straws.
4. Insert straw and use pipette:
i. Insert into liquid, cover top of straw with thumb.
ii. hold thumb on straw while transferring liquid.
iii. release thumb to dispense liquid.
5. Change straw when you would change a micropipette tip.

Print your own via Thingiverse


3D printed “smart” rection vessels

Leroy Cronin and his team out of the University of Glasgow have used a 3D printer they modified to use bathroom sealant to develop a wide variety of custom reaction vessels. The video above shows the printing of such a vessel and how it allows for much more detailed reaction monitoring.

 One vessel was printed with catalyst-laced ‘ink’, enabling the container walls to drive chemical reactions. Another container included built-in electrodes, made from skinny strips of polymer printed with a conductive carbon-based additive. The strips carried currents that stimulated an electrochemical reaction within the vessel.

Using these new vessels they were able to synthesize three new compounds. But even more exciting than the prospect of new compounds is the possibility that using a smart vessel one could find alternative and possibly cheaper routes to the synthesis of known compounds, especially drugs targeting rare diseases where small market keeps the prices abnormally hire.

via Cronin Group

GoGoFuge: an open source microcentrifuge

Keegan Cooke, the developer of the Mudd Watt, has adapted Cathals dremelfuge into a pretty nice looking tabletop microcentrifuge.

LEGO Robots in a Research Lab

On a related note:

The Free Universal Construction Kit offers adapters between LegoDuploFischertechnik,Gears! Gears! Gears!K’NexKrinkles (Bristle Blocks), Lincoln LogsTinkertoysZome, and Zoob. Our adapters can be downloaded from Thingiverse.com and other sharing sites as a set of 3D models in .STL format, suitable for reproduction by personal manufacturing devices like the Makerbot (an inexpensive, open-source 3D printer).


WebGL Visualization of the Wind

Nicolas Garcia Belmonte has developed a quite astounding visualization using WebGLthat displays the speed, distance and temperature of wind from 1200 weather stations around the United States.

Click Through to test out visualization


CheapStat: An Open-Source, “Do-It-Yourself” Potentiostat

A potentiostat is a wonderfully useful tool in the study of electrochemistry. However, their widespread adoption is limited primarily by their price, with research setups often costing up to $10,000 and barebone potentiostats still upwards of $1,000 (i.e. Dagan Chem-Clamp).  A group out of UC Santa Barbara have developed both the hardware and software necessary to build your own potentiostat for only $80. Placing it well in the range of undergrad and developing world lab budgets.

To test it’s capabilities they also ran it through a few sample projects listed below.

  • Measurements of Ascorbic Acid in Orange Juice
  • Monitoring Redox of Ferricyanide Using Cyclic Voltammetry
  • Analysis of Acetaminophen Content in Over-the-Counter Pain Medication Using Linear Sweep Voltammetry
  • Construction of a Simple E-DNA Biosensor and its Interrogation Using Square Wave Voltammetry

You can check out the specific results of the experiments in their paper, but as you can see, used properly this devices uses are pretty exciting.

Download CheapStat firmware, schematics, and instructions 


Lego Electrophoresis Box

If there ever was a recipe for success it would certainly include Legos and Biology.

Gel Electrophoresis allows the sorting of molecules based on size and charge and is a very common and useful technique in molecular biology. Like most lab hardware is quite expensive for what it is, a fancy tupperware container with two wires. Luckily if you happen to have a laser cutter*, you can build your own using a sheet of acrylic and welding glue.

But even that was too complicated for Joseph Elsbernd, who using a few legos and a bit of acetone built a really nice gel boat and electrophoresis chamber. All it’s missing is one of the legos with a hole on each side combined with banana plugs to supply the voltage, some 3D printed combs and you are ready to run gels.

*If you don’t have a laser cutter, you should see if there is one to use at your local hackerspace or there are people online(like IOrodeo) selling precut templates.


Lego Gel Boat

Lego Electrophoresis Chamber

Lego Electrophoresis Chamber

Electrophoresis Gel

Via CheapAssScience

The Light Bulb PCR Machine

This clever device shatters the cost of current thermal cyclers and increases the accessibility of this integral piece of bioware. For less than $50, it could be yours.

Citizen Scientists have already begun to empower themselves and others by making biology more accessible. The first wave of change, it seems, is coming in the form of cleverly-built hardware – PCR machines, incubators and centrifuges made from materials one normally wouldn’t  think to employ.

A few weeks ago I struck on a 2002 publication by Brian Blais describing a working PCR machine he built using a light bulb as its heating element.


Since then, it seems there has been no further development in this potentially revolutionary type of machine – so I decided to build one myself. I had almost no prior electrical experience, but I was willing to learn. If I was able to build this machine in less than a week, then you can too (and it will probably blow this one out of the water).

Using only Home Depot and Radio Shack products accessible to anyone, I built this PCR machine for less than $20. This prototype requires a $30 Arduino Uno to operate (which was already available), but the control system in future models can be scaled down to a much simpler circuit, an LCD screen and a few buttons.

I decided to use 4’’ PVC pipe and couplings for the enclosure because of the range of attachments available. The machine consists of three layers: the top is a 3’’ to 4’’ adapter with holes to house the PCR tubes, the middle is a coupling that holds the fan and light bulb in place and the bottom is a coupling that shelters the arduino and a safety switch. The 110V AC is wired with a simple two-wire connector.

The arduino monitors the temperature  by using a thermistor, basically a resistor that lowers the resistance the hotter it gets. The thermistor is wired in-line with a 5V potential and an analog input pin of the Arduino. The hotter the thermistor gets, the higher the potential flows to the input pin.

During a run, the thermistor is placed inside one of the tube holes. For more accurate readings in the future, the thermistor can be submerged in water and mineral oil inside a PCR tube.

The thermistor can be substituted for a more consistent IC temperature sensor, such as the LM335, in future models.

The schematic for the machine is extremely simple – due to the Arduino’s simple interface requirements, many hardware components can easily be subbed for software programming.

5V relays are used to control the fan and light bulb. These relays  can be switched on and off using the native output of the Arduino – no amplification required.


The entire control module could fit onto the arduino using a prototyping shield called the makershield. I programmed the arduino to control the relays and sense the temperature through the thermistor, then wrote some code to allow the machine to cycle through the three designated temperatures for the PCR reaction.

The machine cycles quickly – a standard 1KB run takes less than 2 1/2 hours to complete. I am in the process of testing the machine using PCR reagents, but given Mr. Blais’s success in the 2002 model I am confident it will work.

Instead of buying a thermal cycler for your lab, I encourage you to go out and build your own machine! This entire system took about $50 (+ a computer to program it) and less than 5 manhours to construct.

My arduino code and more details about the machine to help get you started are available RusselDurret.com.

Russell Durrett is a Research Specialist in Bioinformatics and Genetic Engineering in the Mason lab at Weill-Cornell Medical College and is a cofounder of GenSpace NYC, the world’s first community biology lab.

You can find this article and many more in Issue 01 of Citizen Science Quarterly

The $25 Thermal Cycler

Using a thermal cycler of his own design(circuit below) Brian Blais of Bryant College was able to achieve successful pcr.  It’s important to note, because using a simple incandescent light bulb he got ramping of 1C/sec for heating and .25C/sec for cooling which is only about 3 times slower than lab quality PCR machines. Not to mention his cost $25 and most pcr machines are in the >$1k range.

If you are a diybiologist and are planning on adapting Brians lightbulb pcr for your home lab, I’d recommend you adapt the circuit to utilize an arduino (or any prototyping platform with an ADC), that way you wont need to dedicate a laptop to run your thermalcycler as Brian did. My other thought is that by adding a computer fan during the cooling cycle it might help to improve the cooling rate.  Either way, if you try doing pcr using a lightbulb, let us know how it works and if you did anything to improve the technique.

Design and circuit via: http://web.bryant.edu/~bblais/projects/cycler/cycler-Feb02.pdf