Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Reprogammable Microarrays: Optical Control Technique Could Enable Microfluidic Devices Powered By Surface Tension

Date:
August 6, 2003
Source:
Georgia Institute Of Technology Research News
Summary:
Physicists at the Georgia Institute of Technology have demonstrated a new optical technique for controlling the flow of very small volumes of fluids over solid surfaces. The technique, which relies on changes in surface tension prompted by optically-generated thermal gradients, could provide the foundation for a new generation of dynamically reprogrammable microfluidic devices.

Physicists at the Georgia Institute of Technology have demonstrated a new optical technique for controlling the flow of very small volumes of fluids over solid surfaces. The technique, which relies on changes in surface tension prompted by optically-generated thermal gradients, could provide the foundation for a new generation of dynamically reprogrammable microfluidic devices.

A paper describing the technique is the cover story for the August 1 issue of the journal Physical Review Letters. The research has been supported by the National Science Foundation and the Research Corporation.

Existing microfluidic devices, also known as "labs-on-a-chip," use tiny channels or pipes etched into silicon or other substrate material to manipulate very small volumes of fluid. Such "micropipe" devices are just beginning to appear on the market.

The Georgia Tech innovation could allow production of a new type of microfluidic device without etching channels. Instead, lasers or optical systems similar to those used in LCD projectors would produce complex patterns of varying-intensity light on a flat substrate material. Absorption of the light would produce differential heating on the substrate, creating a pattern of thermal gradients. Surface tension, a relatively strong force at micron size scales, would then cause nanoliter volumes of fluid to flow from the cooler areas to warmer areas through thermocapillary action.

"We envision that this could move multiple droplets or packets of fluid simultaneously, allowing arrays of drops to be moving at the same time at multiple locations," said Michael Schatz, a Georgia Tech associate professor of physics. "We could avoid putting detailed architectures onto the substrate. Instead, we would take advantage of advances in the miniaturization of optoelectronics to pattern the substrate with surface tension forces."

Because the temperature gradients would be formed by computer-controlled light patterns, pathways for the droplets could be quickly changed, allowing a reconfiguration not possible with existing microfluidic devices. And because the surface tension effects are strong at the micron scale, they could produce flow rates higher than channel-based microarrays, which must overcome large frictional forces. Finally, the substrate could be easily cleaned between uses, avoiding contamination.

In their paper, Schatz and colleagues Roman Grigoriev and Nicholas Garnier report their studies of how thermal gradients affect thin films of silicone oil on a surface of glass. The bottom of the glass had been painted black to absorb light, and a heat sink provided to prevent overheating.

The technique could theoretically also use liquid surfaces, where droplets of an immiscible liquid would be moved across a "substrate" fluid by the same surface tension forces. In a liquid-on-liquid system, the underlying fluid would also move, allowing higher flow rates.

In biological applications, fluids of interest are based on water, but Schatz says the optical principle could apply to most liquids. "This technique could apply to many fluid systems because it builds on an intrinsic property that nearly every fluid has – the temperature dependence of surface tension," he noted.

Though many technical hurdles remain, Schatz and his collaborators believe their technique could be the basis for a miniaturized lab-on-a-chip used for genetic or biochemical testing in the field. The easily reconfigurable system would be able to transport, merge, mix and split off streams of fluid flowing across a flat surface.

"If we can build devices that move fluids at small scales in a reconfigurable way, then in principle we can do all kinds of assays in the field at very high densities," Schatz explained. "This approach could be applied in a lot of different conditions."

Ultimately, the miniaturization of microfluidic devices could do for fluid handling what the modern semiconductor technology has done for electronics, allowing assays, chemical studies and other macro-scale processes to become smaller, cheaper and faster. "The shrinking of devices using microfluidics could be as revolutionary to our daily lives as microelectronics has been," Schatz said.

Unlike microelectronics, however, the drive to make microfluidic devices smaller and denser faces an immediate fundamental limit – the size of cells, DNA samples or protein molecules. If those are to be moved in fluid form, the microarray features can't be much smaller than a few microns.

Among the challenges ahead for building optically-driven microfluidic devices are controlling evaporation, developing interfaces to get the tiny volumes of liquid onto the surface, and choosing the right combination of substrate and heat sink to provide distinct temperature gradient patterns without overheating the fluids, notes Grigoriev, an assistant professor in the School of Physics.

"We are at the point of testing strategies for constructing the building blocks, much like the transistors of microelectronics," he said. "Once those pieces are in place, it will be much more straightforward to bring them together into a working microfluidic device."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Georgia Institute Of Technology Research News. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Georgia Institute Of Technology Research News. "Reprogammable Microarrays: Optical Control Technique Could Enable Microfluidic Devices Powered By Surface Tension." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 August 2003. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/08/030806075812.htm>.
Georgia Institute Of Technology Research News. (2003, August 6). Reprogammable Microarrays: Optical Control Technique Could Enable Microfluidic Devices Powered By Surface Tension. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/08/030806075812.htm
Georgia Institute Of Technology Research News. "Reprogammable Microarrays: Optical Control Technique Could Enable Microfluidic Devices Powered By Surface Tension." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/08/030806075812.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways

Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways

AP (July 30, 2014) British officials said on Wednesday that driverless cars will be tested on roads in as many as three cities in a trial program set to begin in January. Officials said the tests will last up to three years. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
7 Ways to Use Toothpaste: Howdini Hacks

7 Ways to Use Toothpaste: Howdini Hacks

Howdini (July 30, 2014) Fresh breath and clean teeth are great, but have you ever thought, "my toothpaste could be doing more". Well, it can! Lots of things! Howdini has 7 new uses for this household staple. Video provided by Howdini
Powered by NewsLook.com
Amid Drought, UCLA Sees Only Water

Amid Drought, UCLA Sees Only Water

AP (July 30, 2014) A ruptured 93-year-old water main left the UCLA campus awash in 8 million gallons of water in the middle of California's worst drought in decades. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow

Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow

AP (July 30, 2014) Smartphone powered paper airplane that was popular on crowdfunding website KickStarter makes its debut at Wisconsin airshow (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins