Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A tiny pump promises big time performance

28.05.2003


BU invention could ’sweeten’ diabetes therapy within five years




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
http://www.binghamton.edu/

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Collagen nanofibrils in mammalian tissues get stronger with exercise
14.12.2018 | University of Illinois College of Engineering

nachricht New discoveries predict ability to forecast dementia from single molecule
12.12.2018 | UT Southwestern Medical Center

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: Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.

Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...

Im Focus: An energy-efficient way to stay warm: Sew high-tech heating patches to your clothes

Personal patches could reduce energy waste in buildings, Rutgers-led study says

What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...

Im Focus: Lethal combination: Drug cocktail turns off the juice to cancer cells

A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.

The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...

Im Focus: New Foldable Drone Flies through Narrow Holes in Rescue Missions

A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.

Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...

Im Focus: Topological material switched off and on for the first time

Key advance for future topological transistors

Over the last decade, there has been much excitement about the discovery, recognised by the Nobel Prize in Physics only two years ago, that there are two types...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

New Plastics Economy Investor Forum - Meeting Point for Innovations

10.12.2018 | Event News

EGU 2019 meeting: Media registration now open

06.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

14.12.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Tangled magnetic fields power cosmic particle accelerators

14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

In search of missing worlds, Hubble finds a fast evaporating exoplanet

14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>