Breast Milk Centrifuge

Kelly Bolkema, Andy Davelaar, Lee Veldkamp

The goal of our project was to design a centrifuge to separate fat out of breast milk. Over 3,500 babies every year develop a condition called Chylothorax, which lasts for approximately six weeks and causes severe health complications if their diet contains any fat. The project was proposed by Gina Tenpas, whose son developed this condition twice during his first year of life. Gina tried several different methods to separate the fat from her milk and saw a need for a more efficient separation method, since the procedures she tried were long and tedious. To make the process faster and easier, we designed a small, lightweight bowl that would hold a small amount of human breast milk (~5oz). This bowl was attached to a centrifuge and used the rapid spinning of the centrifuge to separate the fat solids from the liquid. One advantage of this design was that it could potentially be automated to minimize user time and effort. While our design worked well in concept and in our bowl prototype, which was made of steel, the final bowl, which was made of plastic, did not reach an acceptable fat content level for infants with Chylothorax. While we believe this idea has potential, more testing and design work will be needed to make this a workable solution.