Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Researchers Manipulate Tiny, Floating Droplets on a Chip


In an innovative study, researchers at North Carolina State University have designed a way to control the movement of microscopic droplets of liquid freely floating across centimeter-sized chips packed with electrodes. The discovery allows the performance of new types of chemical experiments on the microscale.

The breakthrough came as the researchers – Dr. Orlin D. Velev, assistant professor of chemical engineering, and two NC State doctoral students, Brian Prevo and Ketan Bhatt – learned how to circumvent friction by suspending the droplets of water inside a fluorinated oil, and then using electrical voltages to allow the liquid to hover over the electrical circuits of the chip. Switching the chip’s electrodes on and off – either manually or with the aid of a computer – lets researchers move the droplets across the oil surface to any location on the chip.

The chip also allows researchers to conduct experiments with mixed droplets, as liquids can be moved along different paths and then merged or encapsulated in oil or polymer droplets.

The discovery has wide-ranging scientific implications. Besides analyses and characterizations of chemical samples, the chip can serve as a tiny factory, Velev says, allowing researchers to mix droplets to test chemical reactions, for example, or add specific amounts of toxin to a cell to see how long it takes the cell to die. Velev is also eager to synthesize new particle materials or crystals inside liquids.

The research was published in the Dec. 4 edition of Nature.

“Moving droplets of liquid on solid surfaces as other researchers have done before us has a number of limitations,” Velev said. Other research in moving droplets on solid surfaces was stunted by friction if particles or solids were moved along the channels or solid surface of a chip. “But the freely suspended droplets on this microfluidic chip never touch solid walls and thus can act as reactors for materials synthesis or precipitation,” he said.

Velev’s interest in microfluidic chips stems from his lab’s work on growing self-assembling microwires by moving gold nanoparticles with alternating current in water, and his earlier work on using floating droplets as assembly sites for complex particles.

“Experiments and bioassays, or determinations of the presence or concentration of biological molecules, that we presently do with test tubes and beakers can now be done on the microscale. This device enlarges the scope and capabilities in the field of microfluidics, which is just a few years old,” Velev said.

The chip – which was simple and inexpensive to make, Velev says, and is reusable – has received a provisional patent, with application in place for a full patent.

The research is funded by Velev’s National Science Foundation Career Award and by an ARO-Stir grant.

Dr. Orlin Velev | NC State University
Further information:

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality
19.10.2016 | University of Waterloo

nachricht Quantum computers: 10-fold boost in stability achieved
18.10.2016 | University of New South Wales

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Innovative technique for shaping light could solve bandwidth crunch

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Finding the lightest superdeformed triaxial atomic nucleus

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

NASA's MAVEN mission observes ups and downs of water escape from Mars

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>