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Open microfluidic and nanofluidic systems

The labs of the future will be "labs-on-a-chip", i.e., integrated chemical and biochemical laboratories shrunk down to the size of a computer chip. An essential prerequisite for such labs are appropriate microcompartments for the confinement of very small amounts of liquids and chemical reagents. Directly accessible surface channels, which can be fabricated by available photolithographic methods, represent an appealing design principle for such microcompartments and, thus, provide a new route towards open microfluidic and nanofluidic systems. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, the Max Planck Institute of Dynamics and Selforganization and the University of California in Santa Barbara have shown that such open systems are possible in general but only if the geometry of the surface channels is carefully matched with their wettability (PNAS 102, 1848-1852 (2005).

Many research groups around the world work towards the construction of "labs-on-a-chip" in order to integrate chemical and biochemical analyzers on the micrometer or even nanometer scale. These devices will significantly change the way in which research is performed in the life sciences since they offer the ability to work with much smaller reagent volumes, much shorter reaction times, and the possibility of massive parallel processing. In general, this should lead to increased throughput and, thus, to reduced cost of (bio)chemical analysis. In addition, such integrated labs-on-a-chip have many potential applications in biomedicine and bioengineering. In the context of biomedicine, for example, they could provide fast and detailed analysis of blood samples in the physician's office without the need to wait several days before the sample has been returned from specialized laboratories. Other applications include customized chips for space travel in order to monitor microbes inside spacecraft or to detect life on other planets.

An obvious prerequisite for such mini
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Source:Max-Planck-Gesellschaft


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