Students Develop Numbing Agent to Aid in Injections

Three freshman students at Rice University have developed a quick numbing device to make injections less painful.

Greg Allison, Mike Hua and Andy Zhang are members of a Rice University student design team looking for a way to numb the skin to alleviate the pain of needle injection. Their solution is a capsule that uses ice pack technology to quickly and locally create numb skin.

The project currently exists as a 3d printed capsule with two chambers. Water is in the first chamber and the lower chamber holds ammonium nitrate. Twisting the capsule allows the mixture process to begin and the same chemical reaction occurs as in commercially available ice packs. The metal bottom of the capsule is then pressed against the patient’s skin to numb the area before injection. Numbing using this method generally takes about thirty seconds of contact.

The team says that this method will be faster, more efficient and more cost effective than current numbing options. Elderly and very young patients are the target customer base but everyone gets injections at some point. Other possible applications involve ear piercing, tattooing and swelling reduction but the team is not currently pursuing those avenues.

Injections are a common procedure in health care facilities and resetting the device several times a day might be difficult or take up too much time. These issues led the team to design the capsule for single use and disposal, using as little material and cost as possible while maximizing the design for mass production.

This project is incredible in terms of its simplicity and usefulness. Students who were graduating high school last year are now working in Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen and making products that could have major impact on the healthcare system.