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Microfluidic

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
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
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
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
It has been known for some time now that sunlight can be used to purify drinking water. The practice of Solar Water Disinfection (SODIS) basically involves just leaving water sitting in direct sunlight, where a combination of heat and UV rays kill off waterborne pathogens – the process is called photocatalysis, and it’s what’s at work behind both the Solaqua water purification device, and a system recently created by students from the University of Washington. Now, researchers from Hong Kong Polytechnic University have taken things a step further, by combining photocatalysis with microfluidics in a microreactor. Read More
A team of biomedical engineers at Taiwan’s National Cheng Kung University has created a new “on-chip” method to identify bacteria. By creating microchannels between two roughened glass slides containing gold electrodes, the researchers are able to sort and concentrate bacteria. A form of spectroscopy is then applied to identify them, providing a portable device that can be used for tasks like food monitoring and blood-screening. Read More
Recently, researchers have come to realize that neutrophils – the most abundant type of white blood cell – play a key role in both chronic and acute inflammation, and in the activation of the immune system in response to injury. Of course, the best way to study neutrophils is to get a hold of some, but traditional methods have required relatively large blood samples, and take up to two hours. Because neutrophils are sensitive to handling, it is also possible to inadvertently activate them, which alters their molecular patterns. A microfluidic device developed at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), however, allows for neutrophils to be collected from a relatively small blood sample, unactivated, in just minutes. Read More
It’s easy to think of the Internet as something that’s just “out there” in cyberspace, that doesn’t effect the physical world in any tangible way. In 2009, however, it was estimated that Internet data centers worldwide consumed about 2% of global electricity production. Not only did most of that electricity undoubtedly come from non-green sources, but it also cost the global economy approximately 30 billion US dollars. Much of the electricity was needed to power the data centers’ forced air cooling systems, that keep the servers from overheating. Now, researchers from IBM Zurich and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH) have devised a much more efficient method for cooling the steamy Internet - they use hot water. Read More
Sure, LED tattoos might look cool, but now scientists have found an even better use for flexible silicon technology. In what represents the first use of such technology for a medical application a team of cardiologists, materials scientists, and bioengineers has created and tested a new type of implantable device for measuring the heart’s electrical output that the team says is a vast improvement over current devices and could also mark the beginning of a new wave of surgical electronics. Read More
A collaboration between MIT, Boston University and German researchers has produced a new system that could soon be used to move tiny objects inside a microchip. The system is self-assembling, can be controlled via software and can transport particles up to 100 times the size of the beads carrying them. The objective is to give scientists new insights as to how cells and other objects are transported by tiny cilia throughout our bodies. Read More
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