Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Super-thin membranes clear the way for chip-sized pumps

Date:
October 28, 2013
Source:
University of Rochester
Summary:
A super-thin silicon membrane could now make it possible to drastically shrink the power source of lab-on-a-chip devices, paving the way for diagnostic devices the size of a credit card.

A microfluidic bioreactors consists of two chambers separated by a nanoporous silicon membrane. It allows for flow-based assays using minimal amounts of reagent. The ultra-thin silicon membrane provides an excellent mimic of biological barrier properties. Note: This image combines two exposures in order to capture the brighter and darker parts of the scene, which exceed the dynamic range of the camera sensor. The resulting composite is truer to what the eye actually sees.
Credit: Photo by Adam Fenster/University of Rochester.

The ability to shrink laboratory-scale processes to automated chip-sized systems would revolutionize biotechnology and medicine. For example, inexpensive and highly portable devices that process blood samples to detect biological agents such as anthrax are needed by the U.S. military and for homeland security efforts. One of the challenges of "lab-on-a-chip" technology is the need for miniaturized pumps to move solutions through micro-channels. Electroosmotic pumps (EOPs), devices in which fluids appear to magically move through porous media in the presence of an electric field, are ideal because they can be readily miniaturized. EOPs however, require bulky, external power sources, which defeats the concept of portability.

But a super-thin silicon membrane developed at the University of Rochester could now make it possible to drastically shrink the power source, paving the way for diagnostic devices the size of a credit card.

"Up until now, electroosmotic pumps have had to operate at a very high voltage -- about 10 kilovolts," said James McGrath, associate professor of biomedical engineering. "Our device works in the range of one-quarter of a volt, which means it can be integrated into devices and powered with small batteries."

McGrath's research paper is being published this week by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

McGrath and his team use porous nanocrystalline silicon (pnc-Si) membranes that are microscopically thin -- it takes more than one thousand stacked on top of each other to equal the width of a human hair. And that's what allows for a low-voltage system.

A porous membrane needs to be placed between two electrodes in order to create what's known as electroosmotic flow, which occurs when an electric field interacts with ions on a charged surface, causing fluids to move through channels. The membranes previously used in EOPs have resulted in a significant voltage drop between the electrodes, forcing engineers to begin with bulky, high-voltage power sources. The thin pnc Si membranes allow the electrodes to be placed much closer to each other, creating a much stronger electric field with a much smaller drop in voltage. As a result, a smaller power source is needed.

"Up until now, not everything associated with miniature pumps was miniaturized," said McGrath. "Our device opens the door for a tremendous number of applications."

Along with medical applications, it's been suggested that EOPs could be used to cool electronic devices. As electronic devices get smaller, components are packed more tightly, making it easier for the devices to overheat. With miniature power supplies, it may be possible to use EOPs to help cool laptops and other portable electronic devices.

McGrath said there's one other benefit to the silicon membranes. "Due to scalable fabrication methods, the nanocrystalline silicon membranes are inexpensive to make and can be easily integrated on silicon or silica-based microfluid chips."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Rochester. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jessica L. Snyder, Jirachai Getpreecharsawas, David Z. Fang, Thomas R. Gaborski, Christopher C. Striemer, Philippe M. Fauchet, David A. Borkholder, and James L. McGrath. High-performance, low-voltage electroosmotic pumps with molecularly thin silicon nanomembranes. PNAS, 2013 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1308109110

Cite This Page:

University of Rochester. "Super-thin membranes clear the way for chip-sized pumps." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 October 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131028162926.htm>.
University of Rochester. (2013, October 28). Super-thin membranes clear the way for chip-sized pumps. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131028162926.htm
University of Rochester. "Super-thin membranes clear the way for chip-sized pumps." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131028162926.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Wednesday, July 30, 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
China's Drone King Says the Revolution Depends on Regulators

China's Drone King Says the Revolution Depends on Regulators

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 30, 2014) Comparing his current crop of drones to early personal computers, DJI founder Frank Wang says the industry is poised for a growth surge - assuming regulators in more markets clear it for takeoff. Jon Gordon reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand

3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand

AP (July 30, 2014) 3-D printing is a cool technology, but it's not exactly a hands-on way to make things. Enter the 3Doodler: the pen that turns you into the 3-D printer. AP technology writer Peter Svensson takes a closer look. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Climate Change Could Cost Billions, According To White House

Climate Change Could Cost Billions, According To White House

Newsy (July 29, 2014) A report from the White House warns not curbing greenhouse gas emissions could cost the U.S. billions. Video provided by Newsy
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