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Got Needle-Phobia? These College Freshmen Just Created An Ingenious Tool For Painless Injections

Rice University’s “Comfortably Numb” design team is here to save your sensitive skin.

image via (cc) flickr user outime

When I was young, I was absolutely, profoundly terrified of getting shots. I am still, to be honest, not much of a fan when it comes to inoculations and booster shots, despite having long outgrown my childhood phobia of needles.


So where were college freshmen Greg Allison, Andy Zhang, and Mike Hua when I needed them, huh?

The trio, all in their first year at Rice University, comprise “Comfortably Numb,” the design engineering team responsible for a new device which could make painful injections as much a thing of the past as the group’s classic rock namesake.

Their invention is astonishingly simple: using extreme cold to numb the skin, by way of a small, 3D-printed capsule with two internal chambers. In one chamber: Water. In the other: Ammonium Nitrate. “A simple twisting motion,” explains Hua, “moves the chambers into alignment to allow the chemicals to flow through the chamber to produce a rapid endothermic reaction. We then numb the skin by contacting the device’s metal surface to the patient’s skin.”

What sets Comfortably Numb’s device apart is the speed with which it’s able to achieve optimal cold. Rather than wait up to an hour for a cold compress or other topical numbing agent to do the job. “Our solution works on the order of seconds and minutes,” says Zhang. Just twist, press, and–voilá–instantly cold skin, impervious to the pain cause by your average injection needle.

image via youtube screen capture

The goal is to use the device on patients for whom being stuck with needles would be especially painful. Namely: the very young, and the very old. The team also envisions using the method on specialty inoculations which take place on particularly-sensitive (read: the groin) parts of the body.

Comfortably Numb is currently working on a provisional patent for their as-of-yet unnamed device, and acknowledge, per a Rice University press release, that it may have uses beyond inoculation, including piercings, and tattooing. For now, though, the team is hoping to develop an iteration of the device to be incorporated into a single syringe-unit. A one-stop mechanism for both numbing, and injecting, the skin.

The team credits their design breakthrough to, of all things, their relative lack of mechanical and medical skills. “Being limited in that way,” explains Allison, “led to something that is very novel and innovative but at the same time simple and elegant”

[via laughing squid]

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