Bubble wrap doubles as test tubes, who knew?

Bubble wrap might just seem like a fun toy an incredibly useful way to wrap things so they don’t get broken but it turns out, it has a scientific purpose, too. A new report by scientists in the journal Analytical Chemistry shows that it can actually be used to contain, protect and transport medical samples.

David K. Bwambok and his colleagues from Harvard University received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to explore the feasibility of using bubble wrap for medical testing around the world, especially in areas that have little or no access to electricity. They found that by injecting liquids into the bubbles and then sealing the holes with nail hardener, samples could be securely (if carefully) transported.

They were also able to test for anaemia and diabetes inside the bubbles and successfully grew E.coli, providing a new way to detect contaminated water. Something that’s been sitting on a shelf next to the A5 envelopes for weeks might not sound like a hygienic lab environment, but the interior of each individual bubble is actually a sterile environment. Plus, unlike typical lab testing kit, it can be easily sent to any medical facility with no fear of breakages, is low cost, and can be easily disposed of by burning if needed.

However, reports than the NHS will be saving money on equipment in future by raiding the stationery aisle at WHSmith are so far unconfirmed.

Image via Andrew Kelsall’s Flickr.

Diane Shipley