We look forward to the day when lab-on-chip technology will revolutionize the way we do clinical diagnostics, turning blood draws into simple finger pricks that will give results in just a few minutes. However, drops of blood are still too much, and minutes too long for a team of engineers from the University of Calgary in Canada.
Their new lab-on-chip system has some significant advantages that researchers feel will save time and money. For example, it requires only a picoliter of fluid. That’s one-trillionth of a liter, an amount so small that testing takes place at the microscopic (or picoscopic?) level and images must be captured through a special high-speed camera. In addition, the technology allows scientists to control the exact size and spacing of the droplets, and then can position, move, dispense, and mix them faster, and with greater precision.
This new method involves creating a structure called a micro-emulsion, which is a droplet of fluid captured inside a layer of another substance. The two substances don’t mix, much like water and oil. This process eliminates many of the steps that are traditionally required to dispense, separate and transfer droplets.
Abstract: DEP actuation of emulsion jets and dispensing of sub-nanoliter emulsion droplets
Article from the University of Calgary: Testing of nanolitre-sized samples could save time and money
(hat tip: Engadget)