A Cambridge high school physics teacher has
found an easy way to create a microfluidic chip, and a Harvard University researcher
has used this inexpensive and simple method in his recently developed
Microfluidics Lab for undergraduates.
Childs, inventor of the process and a high school physics teacher at the
Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, and Dr. Anas Chalah, developer of the
Microfluidics Lab at Harvard University and Director of Instructional
Technology at Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), have
created and improved an
easy method for building a functional microfluidic chip.
technology here is not new at all, but the method is. Conventional microfluidic
devices are created using high-resolution photolithography and etching. The
problem is that this process costs around $500 each time it is performed,
making it too costly to offer to all students.
Childs has developed an inexpensive and easy way to create a microfluidic chip
with the help of Harvard graduate student Keith Brown. They used a traditional
photocopier, transparency films, and a few other simple items to create lab-on-a-chip
devices are similar to those used in drug testing. They are used to deliver
specific drug concentrations to multiple experimental cell lines built
into one chip. Multiple lines means as many as 80 experiments can be
performed at once. But, as mentioned before, these conventional devices can cost
$500 each time it is performed.
their own similar devices, Childs and Brown designed the channels on
PowerPoint™, printed the image and photocopied it onto transparency film
repeatedly until the ink created heightened ridges. They were able to create a
negative mold that is capable of making channels in the polymer chip.
method caught Chalah's attention and inspired him to create a new undergraduate
teaching lab at Harvard's SEAS where undergraduate students can learn about
microfluidics. In fact, the first course to use this lab will be mechanical
engineering course ES 123, "Introduction to Fluid Mechanics and Transport
Processes." Students will be able to model the flow of liquid through
chips "of varying structure" through by using COMSOL Multiphysics™
software, which will allow them to build and design chips in the lab.
University shaped the emergence of the field
of microfluidics and soft lithography through the leading research
conducted in the labs of George Whitesides and David Weitz," said Chalah.
"Now we are bringing those areas of experimentation to the undergraduate
teaching lab at SEAS. Students do the simulation, go through the homework, and
get exposed to the process before they even get in the lab."
made with this new method are not as precise as commercially made chips, but
they are expected to appeal to biomedical engineering students and premedical
students as well as universities. Chalah and Childs have been working together
to perfect the method and the devices.