Introduction: The Mort Pump AKA Solar Embalming Tank

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While this is not the most useful item out there and is not very appropriate for real world embalming, it became a pet project that I was determined to make work!

For those not well versed in the world of embalming, here is a quick overview of the use of the process and the necessity of the embalming tank!

During the embalming process the goal is to remove blood as well as other bodily fluids and replace it with a preservative fluid solution. The most well known chemical involved in this process is formaldehyde. The purpose of the preservation is to retard decomposition and remove pathogenic substances until the deceased reaches final disposition or to be studied. In order to accomplish this task, embalmers take advantage of the body's natural circulatory system. The embalming fluid will travel through the arteries and arterioles to then diffuse into the capillary beds to reach body tissues. As the fluid makes this journey, blood will be displaced and travel through the circulatory system as well and then travel to the venules and veins. To enter and exit the body, the embalmer will make an incision (several locations as options) to reach a major artery and vein; this allows the solution to enter to artery selected via an arterial tube attached to tubing from the tank, follow the circulatory pathways (pushing blood through as well), and finally exit through the selected vein. The purpose of the embalming tank/machine is to generate the pressure necessary to overcome resistance in the body during the fluid delivery process.

Step 1: Gather Materials

The specific materials necessary will vary, but here is what I used. There are many other materials or sizes of materials that will likely work just as well.

1 box (mine is approximately 20cm across and 12.5cm tall)

1 tub/cup (mine is approximately 13cm diameter and 7cm tall)

1 length of flexible tubing (mine is approximately 60cm long)

2 two volt solar panels

1 small water pump

1 straw (bendy type preferred)

4 pipe cleaners

1 led light bulb

1 switch

2 half centimeter opening diameter cardboard tubes (red & blue preferred; length variable, mine are 23cm)

1 paper plate

1 small piece of pool noodle

aluminum foil (to cover box)

tape (I used metallic, duct type)


wire strippers

hot glue gun

light source (lamp or go outside)

permanent marker (optional)

battery pack (optional)

Step 2: Begin Construction

Cover the box with the aluminum foil in the manner of your choosing; I personally used the metallic tape to secure the foil for a more seamless look. This step gives the appearance of the metal base. I chose to draw on the front of mine to make it a bit more "realistic".

*I do not recommend attaching the bowl/cup to the box until after you have had a chance to test the pump with water. It is much easier to fill and dump water pre-attachment rather than post-attachment...especially if you run into issues!

Step 3: Continue Construction and Test Pump

At this point you will want to attach your tubing to the water pump and securely tape it into the tub/cup. It is recommended to test the water pump at this point and make sure that it will pump water.

To test your pump after attachment, fill your tub with water (at least enough to cover the pump) and connect the positive and negative terminals to a power source (battery pack or solar panels). I found that 2 two volt solar panels are a good amount of voltage to efficiently run water through the pump.

*You can test the pump without water, but you will want to test with water at some point to modify your tubing length or add/remove more solar panels as necessary.

Step 4: More Construction

Once the water pump is operating to your expectations, you will want to decide how/where to attach the solar panels. I found that attaching them to the lid (*not yet constructed) was the best method for optimal solar absorption.

At this point you will also want to attach the "tank" to the base using hot glue or other desired adhesive process.

*lid construction: Simply cut the paper plate (or other material desired) to fit the top of your "tank". Be sure that it is a larger circumference than the "tank" so it will not fall in the water. I also took two pipe cleansers and wrapped them around my finger to create a knob for the lid and secured with hot glue. Depending of the size of your "tank", your lid may need to be quite oversized to accommodate the solar panels if that is your desired placement.

Step 5: Complete the Circuit

You should be ready to complete your permanent circuit at this point. I liked the idea of a switch to turn the unit on and off, so that should be attached to your desired location. I took the red lead from one panel and attached it to the switch. The black lead from the same panel is attached to the red lead of the pump. The black lead of the pump is attached to the red lead of the second panel and then finally the black lead of the second panel to the switch! I also added an LED light to the switch for fun. The light is not operating as I expected. I am a newbie in the world of circuitry so I'm not sure how to explain the results. It did create a happy accident though! A true embalming tank will have both high and low pressure settings. The addition of the light actually has the pump operate more slowly when the LED is lit and more quickly when the LED is not lit (when in the presence of sufficient solar power). This defeats the purpose of the switch since it is always "on", but I liked the end effect. I'm sure someone with more circuit knowledge could solve this issue!!

Step 6: Attach Arterial Tube

The arterial tube has to be attached to the tank tubing to ensure the fluid will enter the body's blood vessels! Insert the straw into the free end of the flexible tubing and tape in place to prevent leakage. A bendy straw is perfect as it will angle on its own for insertion into the artery, but I did not have one handy so I bent a regular straw.

Step 7: Create the Blood Vessels and Heart

I decided to add this element to extend the idea of how it travels through the circulatory system. This idea could be expanded upon greatly, but I had limited time and resources.

Take a piece of pool noodle foam and cut it to any shape (I chose a heart for obvious reasons). I bored a hole through the foam and attached the two carboard tubes in either end. The red and blue were intentional to represent the artery and vein respectively as they are frequently illustrated this way. I hot glued the tubes together to create a seamless bond to prevent leakage. To the end of the red tube I coiled and glued a red pipe cleaner. This will allow for the "cutting" of the artery to insert the arterial tube!

Step 8: Create Hemostat

This step is completely optional, but I couldn't resist adding it for fun!

I used a black pipe cleaner and fashioned them into a "scissor-like" shape. To accomplish this, fold the pipe cleaner in half and cut. Now twist the two pieced around each other near one end. Take the longer ends and fashion the handle potion. Now you have a hemostat! The purpose of this device is to lock the arterial tube into the artery during the embalming process.

Step 9: Start That Pump

Everything should be in place at this point to begin "embalming"! Fill your tank with "embalming fluid" (water), replace the lid, set up your light source (either a lamp or go outside), make sure you have a place for the fluid to accumulate and get to pumping. As mentioned earlier the switch simply changes the speed so the only "off" is to remove the light source.

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