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New holographic method could be used for lab-on-a-chip technologies

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Researchers at Purdue University have developed a technique that uses a laser and holograms to precisely position numerous tiny particles within seconds, representing a potential new tool to analyze biological samples or create devices using nanoassembly.

The technique, called rapid electrokinetic patterning, is a potential alternative to existing technologies because the patterns can be more quickly and easily changed, said mechanical engineering doctoral student Stuart J. Williams.

"It's potentially a very versatile tool," said Williams, who is working with doctoral student Aloke Kumar and Steven T. Wereley, an associate professor of mechanical engineering.

The research is based at the Birck Nanotechnology Center in Purdue's Discovery Park.

The students won a research award for their work in October during the 12th International Conference on Miniaturized Systems for Chemistry and Life Sciences in San Diego. Four young researcher poster awards were selected out of more than 220 posters judged in the contest. Findings also have been recently published in two peer-reviewed journals, Lab on a Chip and Microfluidics and Nanofluidics.

The experimental device consists of two parallel electrodes made of indium tin oxide, a transparent and electrically conductive material. The parallel plates were spaced 50 micrometers, or millionths of a meter, apart, equivalent to two-thousandths of an inch or about the diameter of a human hair. A liquid sample containing fluorescent beads was injected between the two electrodes, a laser in the near infrared range of the spectrum was shined through one of the transparent electrodes and a small electrical voltage was applied between the two electrodes.

"We send holograms of various patterns through this and, because they are holograms, we can create different shapes, such as straight lines or L patterns," Kumar said.

The particles in the liquid

Contact: Emil Venere
Purdue University

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