Microfluidics technology is rapidly evolving and the number of applications for the technologies has exploded over the past two decades. Processes that once had to be carried out in a lab, are now miniaturized and completed on a single chip, which means faster, more effective analysis. Electronics that once seemed untenable due to heat issues, now have quick, microfludic-driven cooling systems. Safety equipement driven by microfluidics technologies are better safeguarding our environment. As researchers continually push the boundaries of microfludics innovations, new opportunities to leverage its unique properties arise. Learn how this is quietly changing the face of four key, innovative sectors:
In recent decades, electronics have followed a simple trend: devices become smaller, while capabilities continue to grow. To meet these divergent goals, new technologies are needed to address the challenges posed by smaller and smaller devices. This miniaturization trend is basically driven by the need for handheld devices like smartphones and other compact equipment. Electronic components like transistors and integrated circuits are simultaneously growing in power while shrinking in size, allowing for higher precision and more functionalities. At the same time, miniaturization combined with greater functionality requires more power and results in small-space heat concentration (high heat density).
Heat density that if not properly managed considerably reduces component’s-device’s life as well as functionality (sensor precision, imaging quality, response time, RF signal quality, among others). Cooling liquids with a microfluidics application can be ideal method to address these thermal challenges in electronics.
The health sector benefits from microfluidic technologies especially in 'lab-on-a-chip' biomedical devices, since they provide the ideal platform for portable, low cost, fast turnaround, multiplexed point-of-care diagnostic devices. Such systems can integrate a set of complex functionalities – including sample preparation for different matrices -, implementing a wide variety of diagnostic assays (molecular, immunological, chemical and cell-based) in a disposable cartridge, creating accessible technology for healthcare applications in resource limited locations, but also providing innovative solutions for diagnostics in applications were high sensitivity is necessary.
In the pharmaceutical industry, microfluidics allows a precise control over the synthesis of some particular molecules (such as chiral and stereospecific ones) due to the unique mass transfer properties and the possibility of droplet reactions in this systems.
To ensure the safety of our food supply, companies need to ensure products are monitored and controlled from farm to fork. This allows consumers to know that products reaching their grocery store shelves are safe for consumption. However, conventional analytical approaches are not able to provide affordable, rapid, and robust solutions for total risk management throughout this life cycle. This can lead to gaps in coverage and could create risks for the general public.
Miniaturisation and automation of analytical devices using microfluidic technologies facilitates are needed to face the challenges of the modern food supply chain. Rapid DNA concentration and quantification systems as well as foodborne pathogens and allergens detection are some examples of the application of this technology.
The increase in the necessary environmental safety and quality assessment programs, in particular in air and water, is pushing the boundaries of the regular laboratory bench-based analysis, which depend on highly specialized and expensive operators and equipment. New innovations are needed in order to ensure research programs and companies have the right tools to ensure proper environemntal stewardship of new innovations.
Thus, there is an exponential increase in the research and developments of new portable and/or automated systems to be applied for environmental monitoring. In this context, microfluidics play a decisive role on the capability of automatization, miniaturization and sample preparation and pre-treatment to be used in those integrated devices.