A device that won an Australian scientist an Ig Nobel award for uncooking an egg has now concocted a widely used anaesthetic, with big implications for drug making and healthcare in remote places.
Flinders University's Colin Raston and his research team successfully synthesised Lidocaine in the thermos-flask sized device, showing the numbing agent can easily be produced on the spot.
The chemistry professor made headlines around the world earlier this month for the development of his desktop "vortex fluidic device" (VFD), which unscrambles proteins.
The device has broad applications in the biochemistry and pharmaceutical industries and had the unintended application of being able to unfold the proteins in egg whites back to their natural state.
The Ig Nobel awards, parodying the Nobel Prizes, are given out each year for the most unusual or trivial achievements in scientific research.
Prof Raston said Lidocaine, one of the World Health Organisation's most important medicines, could be made in a VFD in less than an hour in remote locations and war zones with only basic instructions.
It signalled a paradigm shift in pharmaceutical production away from mass batch processing, he said in a statement on Monday.
"This device creates a unique way to develop more sustainable and cost-effective products, services and technologies which can accelerate innovation in a range of industries, from drug manufacturing to food and biodiesel production," Prof Raston said.
He said the use of VFDs would lead to less manufacturing waste, with up to half a tonne of waste generated from the production of just 1kg of many drugs.