Nano Science and Technology Institute

Symposium Spotlight: "Micro & Bio Fluidics, Lab-on-Chip (LOC)"

By: Regina Ramazzini

Learn about TechConnect's Micro & Bio Fluidics, Lab-on-Chip (LOC) Symposium and the greatest areas of interest and possible applications in the field. Dr. Edward Furlani of the University at Buffalo will be chairing the symposium.

  Dr. Edward P. Furlani

Dr. Edward P. Furlani will be chairing the Micro & Bio Fluidics, Lab-on-Chip (LOC) symposium. Symposium Chair Profile:

Dr. Edward P. Furlani holds a Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics from the University at Buffalo (UB) SUNY and is currently a Professor at UB with joint appointments in the Depts. of Chemical and Biological Engineering and Electrical Engineering. He transitioned to UB in 2011 from the Eastman Kodak Research Labs where he directed interdisciplinary computational research for the development of novel commercial technologies. His industrial modeling involved the analysis and design of prototypes in advance of fabrication for a diverse range of applications including microfluidic devices, ink jet systems, electro-optic devices, magnetic and photonic materials and microsystem technology. Dr. Furlani leveraged his broad industrial experience at UB where he has established a computational group that pursues fundamental and translational research towards the development of innovative materials and devices with design features and functionality engineered from the nano to the macroscale. His modeling research spans a range of applications including microfluidics with an emphasis on biosensing and Lab-on-a-Chip technologies; biomedical devices with electromagnetic functionality; electrochemical-based energy devices (batteries, supercapacitors); optical metamaterials and plasmonic effects and biomedical applications of magnetic particles. Some of this work is driven by industrial support to facilitate local economic development. Dr. Furlani’s cumulative research contributions include over 100 peer-reviewed publications, a sole-authored textbook on applied magnetics, numerous invited conference presentations and several book chapters on micro and nanoscale phenomena. Dr. Furlani also has a distinguished record of translational research and currently holds 152 U.S. patents.

About the Micro & Bio Fluidics, Lab-on-Chip (LOC) Symposium- areas of greatest interest/excitement in this field, and what type of applications possible:

Dr. Furlani chairs the Symposium entitled, Micro & Bio Fluidics, Lab-on-Chip (LOC), which covers a wide range of interdisciplinary topics broadly involving the control of fluids and biological and chemical processes at the microscale (1-1000 microns), and transport phenomena in biological systems, respectively. Among these areas, microfluidics and LOC have had the broadest impact with applications that span the fields of clinical diagnostics, molecular biology, biodefense, drug development and many others. A key goal of microfluidics and LOC is to integrate functionality such as sample preparation (separation, mixing), bio-chemical analysis and detection of target substances on a single chip. The motivation and advantages of this approach include low reagent consumption and cost, faster analyses due to accelerated process steps (separation and reactions) for microscale samples (pico-to-microliter), multiplexed (highly parallel) assays that provide high-throughput analysis, and portability for point-of-care (POC) diagnostics, i.e. where diagnostic testing is performed quickly at the site of patient care. Also, at microfluidic length scales the flow is laminar, absent of turbulence, which enables precise flow control, e.g. metering and mixing of reagents to achieve highly controlled doses. There is also an interesting interplay between basic fluid properties such a surface tension and viscosity that become enabling, e.g. the use of the capillary force to transport and manipulate fluids.

Over the last two decades, microfluidics and LOC have advanced rapidly due in part to the development of fabrication techniques that enable low cost and rapid prototyping (soft lithography, polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS)) and the integration of active (e.g. electronic, optic) functionality at the chip level. In recent years, distinct branches of microfluidics have emerged such as droplet-based and digital microfluidics. Droplet-based microfluidics involves the formation and manipulation of discrete small volumes (droplets) of one fluid that is contained within and carried by a surrounding outer immiscible fluid. The droplets may contain different reagents that will rapidly mix for analysis in their confined small volume. Digital microfluidics involves the use of electrowetting (enabled by integrated electrodes) to independently and selectively manipulate (merge and separate) droplets for analysis on an open substrate. Both of these techniques are useful for high throughput sample processing and screening.

The cumulative progress in microfluidics and LOC has had tremendous technological impact, especially in life science research and biotechnology. Some key applications involve high-throughput screening (e.g. immunoassays and drug discovery) using on-chip multiplexing that enables rapid, high-parallel analysis of small samples. Other important applications involve POC medical diagnostics, analysis of whole blood samples, cell culture studies, single cell manipulation, cell counting and sorting, electrophoretic separations, and the extraction, amplification (polymerase chain reaction (PCR)) and analysis of DNA. Commercial systems exist for these and many other microfluidic applications. Moreover, in recent years there has been a proliferation of new companies in this field and new methods continue to be developed that greatly reduce the development cycle time and cost for next generation commercial technology. As a consequence, a broad array of new products with unprecedented performance will emerge that improve many aspects of everyday life.

What can we expect to see from innovation and applications in the next 5-10 years?

In the foreseeable future, the next 5 to 10 years, many microfluidic and LOC technologies are poised for a transformative impact across a wide range of applications, notably in the analytical and life sciences and commercial biotechnology. Some themes that will dominate future work in these areas will be further device miniaturization to enable unprecedented spatial resolution for analysis, large-scale integration with enhanced functionality to enable complete on-chip processing, massively parallel multiplexing for high-throughput combinatorial analysis and screening of samples, and implantable biocompatible systems to enable unprecedented customized real-time monitoring and therapy of patients. The focus on device miniaturization and enhanced functionality will enable the creation of microfluidic platforms that mimic natural biological environments so that researchers can investigate complex and fundamental biological functions of samples down to the single molecule level, while reducing or eliminating environmental artifacts. Similarly, the combination of large scale integration combined with active electrical, optical and magnetic functionality etc. will enable complete self-contained experiments and analysis on-chip, without the need for intermediate off-chip sample handling, preparation or testing, which add complexity, time and cost. The realization of systems that enable automated high-throughput combinatorial screening will greatly accelerate progress in fields such as drug discovery by enabling hundreds and even thousands of drug–drug pairs to be evaluated rapidly and systematically to identify synergistic, additive, and antagonistic drug combinations. Finally, next generation smart biocompatible implants will be developed with integrated therapeutic and sensing capability and wireless power and communications functionality to enable real-time monitoring of patient status (biochemistry, biomarkers), systemically or locally to optimize and individualize patient therapies on-demand. Potential applications might include implants capable of reporting biomarkers of organ dysfunction and delivering compensatory treatments in vivo. These and many other extraordinary applications will emerge from microfluidic and LOC research in the near future.

Who we can expect to participate at the Micro & Bio Fluidics, Lab-on-Chip (LOC) Symposium taking place at the TechConnect World Innovation Conference. Topics and speakers:

The symposium will focus on Lab-on-a-Chip technology, recent advances and commercial applications. The following invited speakers are confirmed:
  • Dr. Jean Berthier: Scientist,  CEA-LETI-Minatec, France
  • Dr. Emmanuel Delamarche, IBM Research - Zurich, Switzerland
  • Dr. Sindy KY Tang Dept. of Mechanical Engineering, Stanford Univ.
  • Dr. Jeff Tza-Huei Wang, Professor, Institute for NanoBioTechnology, Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, Johns Hopkins
  • Dr. Aram Chung, Assistant Professor of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • Dr. Richard B. Fair, Lord-Chandran Professor of Engineering, Duke University
  • Patrick Tabeling, Director of Research, CNRS, France
  • Elisabeth (Sabeth) Verpoorte, Professor, University of Groningen, Netherlands

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