Polymers show promise in lab-on-a-chip tech

An international team of scientists led by researchers at the University of Alberta say they've demonstrated how liquid crystal polymers can be used to develop a tiny lab-on-a-chip. Applying LCPs in a thin film on glass, the researchers found that LCPs can be patterned on a microscale, essentially working as microscale building blocks. These polymers have been described as "artificial muscles" that can convert thermal, chemical and electromagnetic stimuli into mechanical energy. The quest for a lab-on-a-chip is driven by the desire to create tiny systems that can, for example, complete blood analysis far quicker and less expensively than current techniques. Much of the current research has focused on silicon, which is used in semiconductors.

"Based on our research of liquid crystalline polymers, we anticipate the emergence of exciting new techniques in microfabrication that can be used to cheaply and efficiently pattern response materials," said Anastasia Elias, a PhD student in Dr. Michael Brett's group in the U of A Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the first author of the paper. The Canadian researchers worked with colleagues at the Eindhoven University of Technology and Phillips Research Laboratories in the Netherlands.

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PLUS: Purdue University researchers, meanwhile, say that tiny nanocantilevers made up of silicon may form new sensors to detect viruses or bacteria, noting that they vibrate at different levels as contaminants stick to them. Release