Bubble Wrap Can Make Great DIY Test Tubes

Bubble wrap test tubes could be particularly useful in developing countries

Bubble wrap as test tubes. Photo: American Chemical Society

Researchers from Harvard have devised a new use for "the gas-filled compartments in the packing material commonly called 'bubble wrap.'" As they report in the journal Analytical Chemistry, bubble wrap is not just something to wrap breakables in and to pop when you're feeling angsty or playful, but a potential boon to science in places that lack electricity. Bubble wrap, it turns out, can be used as a sheet of test tubes. 

The researchers realized that bubble wrap possess several characteristics that, in certain situations, make it superior to conventional glass test tubes, Laboratory Equipment explains. For one, it does not shatter. The air pockets inside the bubbles are also sterile, so scientists don't have to heat them up to kill any lingering germs (an impossible or very difficult task in places that don't have electricity). Bubble wrap is also available all over the place, including in many developing countries.  

The team was able to inject individual bubbles in bubble wrap with biological samples by piecing them with a syringe and then sealing up the hole with nail hardener. Later, they successfully performed diabetes and anemia tests on those materials. They also grew E. coli cultures in some of the bubbles, Laboratory Equipment reports. 

Injecting bubble wrap at home with blood and urine is probably not a good idea, but the same procedure and some dyed water could be used to create a bubble wrap rainbow.

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