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Music is the engine of new U-M lab-on-a-chip device
Date:7/22/2009

ANN ARBOR, Mich.---Music, rather than electromechanical valves, can drive experimental samples through a lab-on-a-chip in a new system developed at the University of Michigan. This development could significantly simplify the process of conducting experiments in microfluidic devices.

A paper on the research will be published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of July 20.

A lab-on-a-chip, or microfluidic device, integrates multiple laboratory functions onto one chip just millimeters or centimeters in size. The devices allow researchers to experiment on tiny sample sizes, and also to simultaneously perform multiple experiments on the same material. There is hope that they could lead to instant home tests for illnesses, food contaminants and toxic gases, among other advances.

To do an experiment in a microfluidic device today, researchers often use dozens of air hoses, valves and electrical connections between the chip and a computer to move, mix and split pin-prick drops of fluid in the device's microscopic channels and divots.

"You quickly lose the advantage of a small microfluidic system," said Mark Burns, professor and chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering and a professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering.

"You'd really like to see something the size of an iPhone that you could sneeze onto and it would tell you if you have the flu. What hasn't been developed for such a small system is the pneumatics---the mechanisms for moving chemicals and samples around on the device."

The U-M researchers use sound waves to drive a unique pneumatic system that does not require electromechanical valves. Instead, musical notes produce the air pressure to control droplets in the device. The U-M system requires only one "off-chip" connection.

"This system is a lot like fiberoptics, or cable television. Nobody's dragging 200 separate wires all over yo
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Contact: Nicole Casal Moore
ncmoore@umich.edu
734-647-1838
University of Michigan
Source:Eurekalert

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