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Nanotechnology: Better Than a Beaker

Posted March 28, 2011 8:30 AM by Steve Melito

"The idea is to make complex diagnostic processes as simple to perform as modern-day pregnancy tests," explains Dr. Nathaniel Robinson, head of the Transport and Separations Group at Linköping University in Sweden. But can small advances in medical diagnostics make big differences in patient care? Robinson and PhD student Per Erlandsson think so. By using nanotechnology, they're developing a super-small pump that will allow patients to perform preliminary tests upon themselves and in their own homes.

Electro-osmotic pumps may not be new, but the one that Robinson and Erlandsson are designing isn't special just because it's small. Traditional electro-osmotic pumps are made of metal electrodes and produce electrochemical reactions whose byproducts can disturb biological samples. But this new electro-osmotic nano pump uses a conductive plastic that is put on a microfluidic chip and electrochemically oxidized. Charges are carried via metal wires so that the electric current can move fluids such as blood, urine and saliva. In practice, these lab-on-a-chip (LOC) devices contain nano versions of the beakers and test tubes found in most laboratories.

To date, Robinson and Erlandsson have demonstrated that their electro-osmotic pump can run repeatedly and reliably over extended periods of time at relatively low voltages. The researchers have applied for a patent and are now pursuing partners who can use this nano pump in portable, battery-driven diagnostic devices.

Source: Nano Werk


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