USB drive could connect microfluidic device to big world

Microfluidic chips have been in development for more than a decade now for use in, among other things, medical diagnostics. They involve micrometer-sized channels cut into plastic membranes and function as miniature laboratories. One issue that has been a challenge for microfluidics developers, though, is interfacing it with the world. It's a challenge faced in nanotechnology as well. Biomedical engineers at UC Davis think they've found an answer. And it's as simple as a device you might have on your keychain right now--a USB drive.

UC Davis filed a provisional patent on the invention Nov. 1. A paper describing the devices was published online Nov. 25 by the journal Lab on a Chip.

"We think there is a huge need for an interface to bridge microfluidics to electronic devices," said Tingrui Pan, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at UC Davis. Pan and graduate student Arnold Chen--invented the chip and co-authored the paper.

Pan believes that "fit-to-flow" connectors can be integrated with a standard peripheral component interconnect device commonly used in consumer electronics, while an embedded micropump can provide on-demand, self-propelled microfluidic operations.

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