ANN ARBOR, Mich.---As a way to simplify lab-on-a-chip devices that could offer quicker, cheaper and more portable medical tests, University of Michigan researchers have created microfluidic integrated circuits.
Just as electronic circuits intelligently route the flow of electricity on computer chips without external controls, these microfluidic circuits regulate the flow of fluid through their devices without instructions from outside systems.
A paper on the technology is newly published online in Nature Physics.
A microfluidic device, or lab-on-a-chip, integrates multiple laboratory functions onto one chip just centimeters in size. The devices allow researchers to experiment on tiny sample sizes, and also to simultaneously perform multiple experiments on the same material. They can be engineered to mimic the human body more closely than the Petri dish does. They could lead to instant home tests for illnesses, food contaminants and toxic gases, among other advances.
"In most microfluidic devices today, there are essentially little fingers or pressure forces that open and close each individual valve to route fluid through the device during experiments. That is, there is an extra layer of control machinery that is required to manipulate the current in the fluidic circuit," said Shu Takayama, the principal investigator on the project. Takayama is an associate professor in the U-M Department of Biomedical Engineering.
That's similar to how electronic circuits were manipulated a century ago. Then, with the development of the integrated circuit, the "thinking" became embedded in the chip itself---a technological breakthrough that enabled personal computers, Takayama said.
"We have literally made a microfluidic integrated circuit," said Bobak Mosadegh, a doctoral student in Takayama's lab who is first author of the paper.
The external controls that power today's microfluidic devices can be cumbersom
|Contact: Nicole Casal Moore|
University of Michigan