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A lab on a chip powered by… music

This development could greatly simplify the process of performing experiments on microfluidic devices.

Chip activation through music
Chip activation through music

Music, instead of electromechanical switches, will be able to activate experimental samples using a "lab on a chip" in a new system developed at the University of Michigan. This development could greatly simplify the process of performing experiments on microfluidic devices. An article about this research is published online in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

A lab-on-a-chip or microfluidic device combines many laboratory experiments within a single chip that is only a few millimeters or centimeters in size. The device allows researchers to perform experiments on very small samples, as well as conduct a large number of them simultaneously on the same material. The researchers hope that these standards will lead to the development of home test kits for various diseases, food poisoning and the detection of toxic gases - among other possible applications.

In order to perform an experiment on a microfluidic device today, researchers often use dozens of air hoses, valves and electrical connections between the chip and the computer in order to move, mix and flow drops of liquid in the microscopic channels of the device. "As a result, you quickly lose the comparative advantages of the microfluidic system," says Mark Burns, professor of chemical and biomedical engineering.

"We are really interested in seeing a device the size of an iPhone, into which you can sneeze and it will tell you if you have the flu. What has not yet been developed for such a small system are the pneumatic components - the mechanisms for moving the chemicals and liquid samples within the device."

The researchers used sound waves to operate a unique pneumatic (air pressure) system that eliminates the need for electromechanical valves. Instead, sound tones create the air pressure to control the droplets in the device. The new system requires only one connection, which is not of this type.

"This system is very similar to using optical fibers instead of TV cables. Today, nobody drags two hundred separate cables around the house in order to activate all the different channels," explains the researcher. "There is a signal that travels through a single cable and is decoded in a different way for each individual channel."

The system developed by the team of researchers replaces the same air hoses, valves and electrical connections with so-called "resonance cavities". These nozzles are tubes with unique lengths that amplify certain sounds.

These tubes are connected at one end to the microfluidic device, and at the other end to the speaker, which is connected to the computer. It is the computer that produces the sounds (tones, or chords) required to perform the various processes. The resonance nozzles amplify these sounds and the sound waves push air through a hole characteristic of each and every channel. Next, this air wave moves the droplets around the microfluidic device.

"Each resonator hole in the device is designed to amplify a sound unique to it and convert it into useful air pressure," explains the researcher. "If you activate a single sound - one drop is moved. If you activate three consecutive sounds - three drops are moved, and so on. And since the nozzles are not connected to each other, the intensity of each sound can be changed individually to speed up or slow down the movement of the corresponding drop."

The lead researcher describes the system as the reverse of choir bells - instead of ringing a bell to create sound waves in the air, which reach our ears as music, this system uses music to create sound waves in the device, which in turn, move the experimental drops.

"I believe that this is a very sophisticated system," notes the lead researcher. "This is a simpler way to create connections between the world of microfluids and the real, macroscopic world."

The new system is still outside the chip, but the researchers are working to miniaturize it and integrate it into the device itself. This will be a step towards making miniaturized home disease testing kits.

The news about the study

2 תגובות

  1. Just don't sneeze too loudly and the device will tell us we're dead….. 😉

    Well done for the development, medicine in 20~30 years will be amazing.

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