The polymer is peeled back by a student in the new Microfluidics Lab to show the engraved channels  (Source: Eliza Grinnell, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences)
Now Harvard University is using the method in its labs

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. 

Joe 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.

The 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. 

But now, 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.

These 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.

To make 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. 

This new 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.

"Harvard 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."

The chips 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.

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