Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


New lab-on-a-chip device overcomes miniaturization problems


UNSW Australia chemists have invented a new type of tiny lab-on-a-chip device that could have a diverse range of applications, including to detect toxic gases, fabricate integrated circuits and screen biological molecules.

The novel technique developed by the UNSW team involves printing a pattern of miniscule droplets of a special solvent onto a gold-coated or glass surface.

UNSW chemists printed the university's name using a novel technique they developed which involves fabricating a a pattern of ionic liquid droplets onto a gold-coated chip.

Credit: UNSW

"We use a class of 'green' solvents called ionic liquids, which are salts that are liquid at room temperature. They are non-volatile, so this overcomes one of the main problems in making useful miniaturised devices - rapid evaporation of the solvents on the chip," says Dr Chuan Zhao, senior author of the study.

"The versatility of our chips means they could have a wide range of prospective functions, such as for use in fast and accurate hand-held sensors for environmental monitoring, medical diagnosis and process control in manufacturing."

The research is published in the journal Nature Communications. It was carried out by Dr Zhao, Christian Gunawan and Mengchen Ge from the UNSW School of Chemistry.

Lab-on-a- chip devices, where chemical reactions are carried out on a miniature scale, are under intensive development because they offer the promise of faster reaction times, reduced use of materials and high yields of product. Evaporation of solvents on the chip, however, is a big problem because this can affect the concentration of substances and disrupt the reactions. Attempted solutions include containing the solvents within tiny channels or "walls", and having reservoirs to store extra solvent on the chip.

The "wall-less" design developed by the UNSW team - using non-volatile ionic liquids as solvents to fabricate a microarray of droplets chemically anchored to the chip - has several significant advantages.

"Ionic liquids are designer solvents and have wide application. We can now carry out many reactions or analytical procedures in ionic liquids at the micro-scale on a chip with enhanced yields and efficiency," says Dr Zhao.

"These microarray chips can be easily produced in high numbers and are very stable. They can survive being turned upside down and heated to 50 degrees and some can even survive being immersed in another liquid. These properties will be important for commercial applications, including storage and transportation of microchips."

The droplets of ionic liquid are about 50 micrometres across (about half the width of a human hair) and 10 micrometres high.

The UNSW researchers demonstrated several potential uses of the microarrays.

They showed the tiny droplets can act as rapid, sensitive monitors of the presence of a gas, due to their small volume.

They also demonstrated that metal salts dissolved in the droplets could be electrically deposited as microstructures, a technique which could be of use in fabrication of integrated circuits.

Some biological molecules added to the droplets also remained stable and active, opening up the possibility of using the microarrays for diagnostic purposes.


Media contacts:

Dr Chuan Zhao: +61 (2) 9385 4645,

UNSW Science media: Deborah Smith, +61 (2) 9385 7307, +61 (0) 478 492 060,

Deborah Smith | Eurek Alert!
Further information:

Further reports about: UNSW droplets ionic liquids miniaturization reactions solvents stable technique tiny

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Don't Give the Slightest Chance to Toxic Elements in Medicinal Products
23.03.2018 | Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB)

nachricht North and South Cooperation to Combat Tuberculosis
22.03.2018 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Space observation with radar to secure Germany's space infrastructure

Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.

The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

New solar solutions for sustainable buildings and cities

23.03.2018 | Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease

23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Unique communication strategy discovered in stem cell pathway controlling plant growth

23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm

23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>