The system developed by Burns, chemical engineering doctoral student Sean Langelier, and their collaborators replaces these air hoses, valves and electrical connections with what are called resonance cavities. The resonance cavities are tubes of specific lengths that amplify particular musical notes.
These cavities are connected on one end to channels in the microfluidic device, and on the other end to a speaker, which is connected to a computer. The computer generates the notes, or chords. The resonance cavities amplify those notes and the sound waves push air through a hole in the resonance cavity to their assigned channel. The air then nudges the droplets in the microfluidic device along.
"Each resonance cavity on the device is designed to amplify a specific tone and turn it into a useful pressure," Langelier said. "If I play one note, one droplet moves. If I play a three-note chord, three move, and so on. And because the cavities don't communicate with each other, I can vary the strength of the individual notes within the chords to move a given drop faster or slower."
Burns describes the set-up as the reverse of a bell choir. Rather than ringing a bell to create sound waves in the air, which are heard as music, this system uses music to create sound waves in the device, which in turn, move the experimental droplets.
"I think this is a very clever system," Burns said. "It's a way to make the connections between the microfluidic world and the real world much simpler."
The new system is still external to the chip, but the researchers are working to make it smaller and incorporate it on a microfluidic device. That would be a step closer to a smartphone-sized home flu test.
|Contact: Nicole Casal Moore|
University of Michigan