The Lab in a Suitcase is an experimental kit that allows scientific research to be carried out independently. The project aims to contribute towards the democratisation of science, training young scientists and offering them the tools necessary for conducting research.
The Lab in a Suitcase is a project promoted by the Gulbenkian Science Institute, under a partnership established with Oeiras City Council and Merck, which aims to train young scientists in Portuguese-speaking African Countries.
This project marks the starting point of a practical training plan designed for young scientists, providing them with a low cost, portable and low-maintenance experimental kit that enables them to engage in educational activities and scientific research independently.
The suitcase is compact and consists of various items of molecular biology equipment, allowing the user to carry out genotyping and phenotyping experiments based on modern techniques, such as the amplification and analysis of DNA and fluorescence microscopy. The kit includes an incubator, a densitometer, a magnifying lens, a Bento Lab kit and 4 micropipettes.
The project seeks to contribute towards the democratisation of science, driving scientific research and the teaching of science in a more inclusive and global manner. Find out more about this project in the video below.
Discover the components of the Lab in a Suitcase
The Lab in a Suitcase is a portable, ready-to-use kit, and some of its components can be reproduced by the user.
The components of the kit allow genotyping and phenotyping experiments to be performed based on techniques such as DNA amplification and analysis, microscopy, cell culture with fine temperature control, and measurement of cell and molecular density in solution.
The incubator was designed and manufactured by the Lab in a Suitcase team. It consists of a polystyrene box, 2 cans, high-power resistors, a temperature and humidity sensor, a low-power micro-fan and a proportional-integral-derivative (PID) controller operated by a microcontroller. Through a small screen and an Arduino that controls the various components, it is possible to finely control the temperature and keep the set temperature constant inside the incubator.
Used to measure the optical density (degree of opacity) of a liquid, the portable densitometer is another component designed and developed by the project team. The densitometer is composed of a 3D printed cuvette holder, which takes advantage of the LED of a mobile phone and its camera. The densitometer is accompanied by a mobile application that reads the optical density of liquid samples without requiring an Internet connection. The current holder fits a Xiaomi Redmi 9AT phone and the technical drawings can be adapted for the holder to be used with other mobile phone brands with different camera and LED configurations.
Consisting of a portable lens with two lighting options (white light and blue light) that can be attached to a mobile phone camera, the magnifying lens enables the acquisition of images with 60x magnification or more. The magnifying lens can be used to capture images of cells and tissues, small animals and plants.
Portable and ready to use, the Bento Lab from Bento Bioworks combines a centrifuge, a thermocycler and an agarose gel electrophoresis system with built-in transilluminator, allowing DNA samples to be genotyped.