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Novel NIST connector uses magnets for leak-free microfluidic devices
Date:11/18/2009

Like other users of microfluidic systems, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) researcher Javier Atencia was faced with an annoying engineering problem: how to simply, reliably and most of all, tightly, connect his tiny devices to the external pumps and reservoirs delivering liquids into the system. While pondering this one day, he randomly picked up two magnets and began playing with them. As the magnets pulled apart and then snapped back together, Atencia realized that he had his solution.

In a paper recently published online in Lab on a Chip,* Atencia and colleagues describe the result of that brainstorm: a new, inexpensive, reusable and highly efficient microfluidic connector. The NIST connector employs a ring magnet with a O-ring gasket on its bottom and a tube in its center set directly atop the inlet or outlet port of a microfluidic channel embedded in a glass chip. A disc magnet on the underside of the chip holds the first magnetand its tubingsecurely in place.

Unlike traditional approaches to connectorssuch as gluing the tubing directly to the chip or mounting a male/female connection with the tubing attached to the male portionthe NIST magnetic connector is reusable; can be positioned anywhere on the chip; and eliminates any possibility of broken bonds that leak, chips cracked during heat curing of the glue, or microfluidic devices turned useless by excess glue entering the channels. Additionally, the reliability, flexibility and fast assembly of the NIST connector compares favorably to a recently developed press-fit system (where springs produce the sealing force) but the magnetic connectors cost hundreds of dollars less to build and operate.

As reported in their paper, the NIST researchers demonstrated the viability of their magnetic connector in a microfluidic device designed to generate liposomes (tiny bubble-shaped membranes that can be used to transport drugs throughout the body), a fairly port-
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Contact: Michael E. Newman
michael.newman@nist.gov
301-975-3025
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Source:Eurekalert  

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