The process is the crux of what the researchers call "lab on a chip" technology, which will enable scientists, health care professionals and environmental experts to obtain precise biochemical test results with only micro-level amounts of fluids.
"By manipulating droplets so carefully and preventing contamination of the samples, we can detect things like signs of disease or environmentally hazardous materials much better," said research associate Lindsay. "We can analyze things using small droplets that normally would require much larger amounts of fluid for testing. This reduces the expense of testing because you don't need large amounts of very expensive chemicals to do the analyses."
Perhaps the most critically important thing the method will help save is time, especially in medical diagnoses. "You might be able to get an analysis of someone's health condition in 15 minutes rather than having it take two days," says Picraux.
Digital magnetofluidics will allow for more compact and portable testing instruments that will work fast and require less power to operate, he says.
It also holds promise for improving public safety and homeland security efforts, Picraux says. The method could aid in more quickly and accurately detecting and analyzing dangerous chemicals if they were intentionally introduced into a public environment. It also could improve monitoring systems in factories and other industrial operations where potentially hazardous chemicals are in use.
The research can accelerate the development of microfluidic devices that would, for instance, allow as many as 20 to 30 various tests to be performed using a single, tiny drop of blood.
A major goal is to refine the technology to create point-of-care devices that would provide rapid diagnoses for people who live far from hospitals, or in cases of emergency medical care in which t
Source:Arizona State University