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Microfluidic

A microformulator, designed to allow ABE to perform experiments without human intervention...

While some people may have been impressed (or intimidated) by the recent development of a system that automatically raises and analyzes cell cultures, it turns out that another facet of the biological research process may also be going to the machines. An interdisciplinary team of researchers recently demonstrated a computer system that is able to take in raw scientific data from a biological system, and output mathematical equations describing how that system operates - it is reportedly one of the most complex scientific modeling problems that a computer has solved entirely from scratch. While the system is known affectionately as "ABE," it is also being referred to as a robotic biologist.  Read More

Image courtesy Firefly Bioworks

Early disease detection can be a matter of life and death, especially if that disease is cancer. In a novel approach to this problem, researchers from MIT have engineeringed a series of ultra-microscopic particles, each designed to bind to a disease-specific type of microRNA - a genetic material which affects gene expression in the nucleus. In cancer cells, the microRNA has somehow malfunctioned, leading to rapid, unregulated cell growth that can ultimately form tumors.  Read More

A new in-shoe device is designed to harvest the energy that is created by walking, and sto...

Although you may not be using a Get Smart-style shoe phone anytime soon, it is possible that your mobile phone may end up receiving its power from your shoes. University of Wisconsin-Madison engineering researchers Tom Krupenkin and J. Ashley Taylor have developed an in-shoe system that harvests the energy generated by walking. Currently, this energy is lost as heat. With their technology, however, they claim that up to 20 watts of electricity could be generated, and stored in an incorporated rechargeable battery.  Read More

The W-Ink 3D-nanostructured chip is able to instantly identify liquids(Image: Ian Burgess)

If you want to know exactly what a substance is, your best bet is to use something like a gas chromatographer. The problem is, such machines tend to be large, lab-based and expensive – not the greatest for use in the field, or by people who aren’t connected with a research institute. Researchers from Harvard University's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, however, have created inexpensive, portable 3D-nanostructured chips, that can instantly identify any liquid via its surface tension.  Read More

A diagram depicting how a nanobead-equipped chemical assay device could work (Image: OSU)

Handheld biosensors and diagnostic devices could be taking a huge step forward, thanks to recent advances made in the use of ferromagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles – also known as magnetic nanobeads. According to scientists from Oregon State University (OSU), the use of such particles in chemical detection systems could make those systems much smaller, faster, cheaper to produce, and more accurate than they are presently.  Read More

Using commonly-available materials, scientists have created a biosensor that detects acute...

In this age of laser-etched microfluidic lab-on-a-chip devices that analyze samples of bodily fluids on the spot, it's kind of ... fun, perhaps, to hear about a similar device that could conceivably be assembled by a grade school student, using their allowance money. The matchbox-sized sensor, developed by scientists from The University of Texas at Austin, is designed to detect acute pancreatitis using blood samples. Important as its purpose may be, though, the materials used to build the device include things like household aluminum foil, milk, a 12-cent LED bulb, and JELL-O.  Read More

This tiny microfluidic device uses carbon nanotubes 30 microns in diameter to separate can...

A cross-discipline project that brings together biomedicine and nano-engineering has led to the development of a dime-sized microfluidic device that can rapidly detect cancer cells in a blood sample. The new device is based on a cancer cell-detector created four years ago by Mehmet Toner, professor of biomedical engineering at Harvard Medical School. In its latest incarnation, carbon nanotubes have been introduced into the design resulting in an eight-fold improvement in the collection of cells.  Read More

Researchers have developed a method of laser-welding transparent pieces of plastic to one ...

Laser welding of plastic is quick, precise, and generates little waste, but it does have its limitations. The process involves shining a laser beam through the edge of an upper sheet of plastic and onto the joining edge of a lower sheet, which has had soot particles mixed into it to absorb the radiation – this means that manufacturers are almost always limited to joining transparent plastic to black plastic. Researchers from Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology, however, have recently developed a method for welding transparent plastics to one another.  Read More

One of the microfluidic paper test strips, fluorescing blue to indicate the presence of he...

Lab-on-a-chip devices work by directing small samples of liquid through tiny “microchannels” embedded in a small platform, and are used for analyzing liquids in medical and scientific settings. Earlier this week, we reported on a high school teacher who has invented a way of creating such devices using transparency film and a photocopier. Now, scientists from Indiana’s Purdue University have announced a new method of making them using paper. While previous approaches have involved laying down lines of wax or other hydrophobic (water-repelling) material on hydrophilic (water-absorbing) paper, this method uses store-bought hydrophobic paper, and creates the microchannels by burning away the waterproof coating with a laser.  Read More

A high school physics teacher has invented a method of producing microfluidic devices, usi...

Microfluidic technology, in which liquid is made to pass through “microchannels” that are often less than a millimeter in width, has had a profound effect on fields such as physics, chemistry, engineering and biotechnology. In particular, it has made “lab-on-a-chip” systems possible, in which the chemical contents of tiny amounts of fluid can be analyzed on a small platform. Such devices are typically made in clean rooms, through a process of photolithography and etching. This rather involved production method is reflected in their retail price, which sits around US$500 per device. Now, however, a high school teacher has come up with a way of making microfluidics that involves little else than a photocopier and transparency film.  Read More

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