New lab-on-a-chip device which runs on music

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Washington, July 23 (ANI): Its music, not electromechanical valves, that controls a novel lab-on-a-chip device designed at the University of Michigan (UM).

The new system could significantly simplify the process of conducting experiments in microfluidic devices.

A lab-on-a-chip, or microfluidic device, integrates multiple laboratory functions onto one chip just millimeters or centimeters in size.

To do an experiment in a microfluidic device today, researchers often use dozens of air hoses, valves and electrical connections between the chip and a computer to move, mix and split pinprick drops of fluid in the device's microscopic channels and divots.

"You quickly lose the advantage of a small microfluidic system. You'd really like to see something the size of an iPhone that you could sneeze onto and it would tell you if you have the flu. What hasn't been developed for such a small system is the pneumatics-the mechanisms for moving chemicals and samples around on the device," said Dr. Mark Burns at UM.

In the new study researchers used sound waves to drive a unique pneumatic system that does not require electromechanical valves.

Instead, musical notes produce the air pressure to control droplets in the device, which requires only one "off-chip" connection.

"This system is a lot like fiberoptics, or cable television. Nobody's dragging 200 separate wires all over your house to power all those channels. There's one cable signal that gets decoded," said Burns.

The device replaces these air hoses, valves and electrical connections with what are called resonance cavities-tubes of specific lengths that amplify particular musical notes.

These cavities are connected on one end to channels in the microfluidic device, and on the other end to a speaker, which is connected to a computer.

The computer generates the notes, or chords, which are amplified by the resonance cavities. The sound waves push air through a hole in the resonance cavity to their assigned channel and then the air nudges the droplets in the microfluidic device.

"Each resonance cavity on the device is designed to amplify a specific tone and turn it into a useful pressure. If I play one note, one droplet moves. If I play a three-note chord, three move, and so on. And because the cavities don't communicate with each other, I can vary the strength of the individual notes within the chords to move a given drop faster or slower," said a co-author of the study.

Burns said: "I think this is a very clever system. It's a way to make the connections between the microfluidic world and the real world much simpler."

The researchers are working towards making the system smaller and incorporate it on a microfluidic device, opening doors for a smartphone-sized home flu test.

The study has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of July 20. (ANI)

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