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Making microscopic machines using metallic glass

high-value polymer components, on the micrometer and nanometer-scale," explains Gilchrist. "This is a process by which high-volume quantities of plastic components can be mass produced with one hundred times more precision, for costs that are at least ten times cheaper than currently possible."

The research team explains that with BMG injection molding equipment it is now possible to create millimeter-sized polymer components that have surface features of a similar size to mammalian cells at 10 micrometers or even the smallest viruses at less than 100 nanometers. The new manufacturing process could thus allow 'lab-on-a-chip' devices to be constructed that could handle and test samples containing single cells and viruses or large biomolecules including DNA and proteins.

"These precision plastic parts are the high value components of microfluidic devices, lab-on-chip diagnostic devices, micro implantable components and MEMS sensors," Gilchrist adds.

Once the technology is extended to the tens of nanometers length scale, the team suggests that it could be used to make high-volume, low-cost, information storage systems. The team is currently optimizing their technology with this goal in mind.

The research team concludes, "The worldwide trend of miniaturization means that these devices and components are getting progressively smaller and smaller; the problem faced by today's technologies is that they will soon be unable to manufacture at these smaller dimensions at competitive prices. If you just consider the microfluidic devices market without the biological content: this is forecast to reach $5 billion by 2016."

Contact: Stewart Bland

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