Chemists at the University of California, San Diego have developed a method that uses dust-sized chips of silicon to surround and precisely direct the motion of molecules, cells, bacteria and other miniscule objects within a tiny drop of liquid.
Smart dust particles self assembled on drops of oil in water. Photo Credit: Jamie Link, UCSD
Their development of these tiny silicon “chaperones,” detailed today in an advance online publication in a forthcoming issue of the journal Nature Materials, represents an important new achievement in the emerging field of “microfluidics,” in which new methods are sought to create, transport and experiment with ever smaller volumes of fluids.
Much as the development of smaller and smaller computer chips has transformed the electronics industry, the “smaller is better” movement of microfluidics is already beginning to pave the way for a new wave of developments in biotechnology and nanotechnology. One major problem now facing scientists in the biotechnology industry is how to handle tiny volumes of liquid containing precious samples of DNA, bacteria, viruses or other nano-sized particles without losing much of the samples.
Kim McDonald | EurekAlert!
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