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Marriage of microfluidics and optics could advance lab-on-a-chip devices
Date:2/16/2010

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., February 15, 2009 -- With a silicone rubber "stick-on" sheet containing dozens of miniature, powerful lenses, engineers at Harvard are one step closer to putting the capacity of a large laboratory into a micro-sized package.

The marriage of high performance optics with microfluidics could prove the perfect match for making lab-on-a-chip technologies more practical.

Microfluidics, the ability to manipulate tiny volumes of liquid, is at the heart of many lab-on-a-chip devices. Such platforms can automatically mix and filter chemicals, making them ideal for disease detection and environmental sensing.

The performance of these devices, however, is typically inferior to larger scale laboratory equipment. While lab-on-a-chip systems can deliver and manipulate millions of liquid drops, there is not an equally scalable and efficient way to detect the activity, such as biological reactions, within the drops.

The Harvard team's zone-plate array optical detection system, described in an article appearing in Lab on a Chip (Issue 5, 2010), may offer a solution. The array, which integrates directly into a massively parallel microfluidic device, can analyze nearly 200,000 droplets per second; is scalable and reusable; and can be readily customized.

"In essence, we've integrated some high performance optics onto a chip that contains microfluidics as well. This allows us to be able to parallelize the optics in the same way that a microfluidic device parallelizes sample manipulation and delivery," says Ken Crozier, an Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) who directed the research.

Unlike a typical optical detection system that uses a microscope objective lens to scan a single laser spot over a microfluidic channel, the team's zone-plate array is designed to detect light from multiple channels simultaneously. In their demons
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Contact: Michael Patrick Rutter
mrutter@seas.harvard.edu
617-496-3815
Harvard University
Source:Eurekalert  

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