Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A tiny pump promises big time performance: BU invention could ’sweeten’ diabetes therapy within five years

12.06.2003


C.J. Zhong hopes that within the next three to five years diabetics the world could see their quality of life enhanced by his tiny invention-a chip-sized pump with no moving parts. The device is also expected to find its way into myriad industrial and environmental applications, where it could mean huge savings in manufacturing and monitoring processes.



Zhong’s patent on the low-power, electrically driven pumping device is one of the reasons the State University of New York has broken into the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s list of the top 10 patent-producing U.S. universities, jumping to 8th in 2002 from 17th in 2001.

Zhong was among four Binghamton researchers honored last week by State University of New York Chancellor Robert L. King for their contribution to the advancement of humanity through groundbreaking research. Zhong was recognized with a First Patent Award for his device. (See related story.)


An assistant professor of chemistry at Binghamton since 1998, Zhong refers to the invention as a "pumpless pump" because it lacks mechanical parts. The pumping device is the size of a computer chip and could be fabricated at a scale comparable to an adult’s fingernail. The device comprises a detector, a column filled with moving liquid, and an injector. The pumping action is achieved when a wire sends an electrical voltage to two immiscible fluids in a tiny column, perhaps as small as the diameter of a hair. Applying opposite charges to each side of the column causes the fluids to oscillate, thereby simulating the action of a pump. In some ways, the tiny system works like a thermostat: it takes a small sample, analyzes it, and tells other components how to act in response.

Zhong’s device has significant potential in the treatment of diabetes because it is small enough to be inserted into and remain in the body where it would conduct microfluidic analysis, constantly measuring the need for insulin and, then, delivering precise amounts of insulin at the appropriate times. Because the detector would remain constantly at work, the device could eliminate the need for regular blood tests. Moreover, because less time would have passed between infusions of insulin, it is likely that insulin levels could be better maintained, without soaring and surging as dramatically as they sometimes do with present day treatment strategies. While his device is not an "artificial pancreas," Zhong says that it could well prove to be an integral part of a system that could someday become just that.

Diabetics are not the only ones who will benefit from the tiny pumping device, developed by Zhong and his research team of undergraduate and graduate students and a post-doctoral researcher. Any small, closed environment could benefit from tiny equipment that requires little fuel and produces no waste, he said.

"For example, there’s the space shuttle," Zhong said, "If you want to analyze the water quality, this would allow you to take as small a sample as possible." That would make it possible for astronauts on an especially long mission to ensure the potability of their water supply without significantly depleting their supply by repeated testing, he added.

Zhong’s pumping device can also be operated by remote control, working where human hands cannot -- or should not reach. "One of the labs we’re working with on this project is interested in dealing with metal contaminants from nuclear waste," said Zhong. "Their current technology is to go in the field, take samples of contaminated soil, and analyze them back in the lab. What we want to do is make remote controllable portable chip devices that sit in the field."

Making lab equipment smaller and more efficient is one of Zhong’s chief research goals. It’s a goal he sees as highly achievable.

"Look at the computer," he said. "Twenty years ago, it was huge. Now it’s tiny." He eventually hopes to create what he calls a "lab on a chip," by shrinking down all of the equipment in a chemistry lab to the size of computer chips. Smaller equipment not only uses fewer resources, he said, but creates less waste.

"Large equipment typically generates significant waste," he said, "But if you use a miniature instrument, there’s almost no waste." For example, because his new pump is so small, it runs on an electrical current supplied by a tiny battery. A conventional pump requires the power of a generator, which needs gasoline and emits toxic fumes as a byproduct.

Regardless of the size at which it is produced, the design of Zhong’s device has any number of advantages over current technologies. "Mechanical parts need maintenance and repair," he said. "This is basically a fluid pumping mechanism," with no need for lubrication, repairs, or spare parts. Produced at the scale of a chip, it is also practically weightless, especially compared to a conventional pump.

Right now, Zhong’s invention is still in the prototype stage, but the weightless, maintenance-free and implantable "pumpless pump" probably is not too far off, he speculated. "We are not there yet, but this is going to take off very fast," he said. "Perhaps three to four years."

That might not seem soon enough for diabetics who would gladly trade lancets and blood test strips for a tiny internal sensor attached to an insulin pump. But Zhong’s miniature invention nevertheless seems likely to soon be making life much sweeter for many in the health care, manufacturing and environmental arenas.

Ingrid Husisian | Binghamton University
Further information:
http://research.binghamton.edu/discovere/june2003/TopStories/CJZhong.htm

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht NIST scientists discover how to switch liver cancer cell growth from 2-D to 3-D structures
17.11.2017 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

nachricht High speed video recording precisely measures blood cell velocity
15.11.2017 | ITMO University

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA detects solar flare pulses at Sun and Earth

17.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

NIST scientists discover how to switch liver cancer cell growth from 2-D to 3-D structures

17.11.2017 | Health and Medicine

The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change

17.11.2017 | Studies and Analyses

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>