Young Scientists

Doing experimental science in Africa : how to ? - 11. François Piuzzi : Make scientific instruments with a sustainable cost

Open source hardware and technology hijacking are the two pillars of instruments with a sustainable cost.

"I'm going to talk about something that's a little outside the academic world. Experimental science is very important. In particular, it takes a lot of experimental science to get data before simulations can be done. So we still have to make measurements regarding the environment, and even regarding diseases: we already saw that instruments are very important to characterize diseases.

The only problem is that scientific instruments and laboratory equipment are very expensive!

For a few years now, with people who are members of the “Physics Without Borders“ commission, we have been trying to think about solutions. We are not alone: there are other young Europeans who are looking for solutions.

I focus my presentation on open source hardware, and also technology hijacking. For me, these are two methods that allow the development of scientific equipment with sustainable costs.

The image here shows different methods, in astronomy and in fundamental physics.

There is a real need for laboratory equipment and scientific instruments, whether it is to prepare samples or to make measurements.

To reduce costs, we can use methods that have been made possible by the digital revolution.

I prefer “sustainable costs“ to “low cost“, because what can be done according to the costs depends a lot of the country where you are.

All these new methods have made it possible to design and manufacture in a faster and easier way, especially with 3D printing.

In addition, we have the hijacking of technologies. There are many technologies that have been developed over many years. So we can take pieces of technology to do something completely different than what they were made for. It's also something we're going to gain a lot from.

And finally we all have a tool in our pockets, which is a scientific instrument, but we don't know it: it's the smartphone!

It is a real scientific instrument. It is now increasingly used as a detector in biology, for example. We can even do DNA analysis with a smartphone. With everything in it, gyroscopes, GPS and even computers, we can do a lot of things."


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