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Ship-in-a-bottle kit on a microchip
Date:12/2/2008

This release is available in German.

Sometimes physicists resort to tried and trusted model-making tricks. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Metals Research, the University of Stuttgart and the Colorado School of Mines have constructed micromachines using the same trick that model makers use to get ships into a bottle where the masts and rigging of the sailing ship are not erected until it is in the bottle. In the same way, the scientists link the valves, pumps and stirrers of a microlaboratory to create a micro device on a chip. To do this, they introduce colloidal particles - tiny magnetizable plastic spheres - as components into the channels on the chip. A rotating magnetic field is used to link the components into larger aggregates and set them into motion as micromachines. (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), December 2, 2008)

In the future, biologists and chemists want to avoid using bulky glass flasks, Bunsen burners and magnetic stirrers as far as possible in their experiments. Similarly to microelectronics, where electrons are steered through tiny conducting paths, they intend to perform chemical reactions in microfluidic systems, that is, chambers and channels just a few micrometers in diameter. These "labs on a chip" will then allow DNA sequences or blood samples to be analyzed much more quickly and more efficiently. As they only require tiny amounts of liquids, this approach costs much less than traditional methods, which require larger quantities of materials. These micro analytical systems would also be transportable, because their core parts take up very little space. Paramedics, for example, could analyze blood samples at the site of an accident.

Researchers working with Clemens Bechinger who is a Professor at the University of Stuttgart and a Fellow at the Max Planck Institute
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Contact: Clemens Bechinger
c.bechinger@physik.uni-stuttgart.de
49-711-685-65218
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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