Microelectronics:

Microfluidics. The unheard term projects better exposure

Microfluidics is still a term unknown to many! It doesn’t belong to one particular area but the term comes into view when chemistry and technology intersect. George M Whitesides, one of the major contributors in the Microfluidics area rightly explains how it is referred to the flow with a channel dimension less than 1,000 µm as microfluidics and how the term is a lot more than that.

George Whitesides introduced the four parents in the area of microfluidics which has established a prominent place in the study of microfluidics technology.

  • Microanalysis:

Microanalysis method was first developed in the 1960s which separated ionic species through their size to charge ratio. It essentially identifies several small amounts of matter. Capillary electrophoresis and a similar matter contribute to making a microanalysis.

  • Biodefense:

The cold war of 19th century became the rationale for the awareness of chemical and biological warfare to escalate. It fueled the United States’ research agency DARPA which happened to initiate the research on microfluidics in the 1990s. The recently discovered device based on microfluidics manifested biodefense as the crucial area in roots defense. The device detects anthrax or other suspect DNA. The system retrieves cells from a specimen and the DNA is analyzed within an hour which typically takes 3 days otherwise.

  • Molecular Biology:

The rapid progress of genomics activity has urged advanced technology to dive into deeper insights. To unveil new developments in the area, Microfluidics contributed to process the DNA with precision and speed while also making it economical at the same time.

  • Microelectronics:

Unlike the previous factors which were more into tools and needs for microfluidics, this one aids in offering its form and substances. The branch of Microelectronics developed when experts were searching a way to precisely manufacture microsized structures.  Earlier, the components of microfluidics were made of silicon and glass which used microelectronics methods such as photolithography. Its advancements managed to replace silicon with a more befitting material. Polydimethylsiloxane, PDMS is the best possible alternative to silicon. It’s soft, transparent elastic polymer which can be used for making housing cells.

Application of Microfluidics:

Lab-on-a-chip and microfluidics can be put together to effectively work as a diagnostic test which will replace its full-sized lab used earlier. A Sample, a process, and a validation technique are the three basic elements of this chip.

For instance_

  • Saliva/Blood taken for sample
  • Mechanically or chemically processed to isolate the needed component
  • Chemical reaction application

You may see a color change to learn the reaction or examine it under microscopic view, but the test performed with the help of microfluidics can fulfill all three components in dozens of ways.

Despite these magical developments and advancements, there remains a number of people who are still unaware of the technology while many of them haven’t even heard the phrase. The applications of the microfluidics technology may appear to be magical, however, it hasn’t made its breakthrough to a large part of the consumer world.

There are some setbacks in introducing the technology to the world_

  • The prototypes cannot be easily mass-produced.
  • The troubleshooting part is still a matter of dubiety.

The technology if applied all across the world, it would mean that one does not have to send the samples to a particular lab to get the test results. This gives access to life-saving diagnostics that are elsewhere high-priced and difficult to learn the operative instructions.

The prompt response given to the devices would offer results at your home and at your comfort. The technique would eventually save time and money spent on clinics far away from the home. Hence, the efforts are being made to make easier, cheaper, simpler and a durable technique for general customers.

Helios, fluidigm, claros diagnostics, microfluidics systems, Affymetrix are some of the prominent companies which are involved in the research and production of microfluidics-based technologies. The opportunity to explore the research area of microfluidics technology is considerably wide and needs more exposure.