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Pump Designed for Lab-on-a-Chip Medical Diagnostics

Example of lab-on-a-chip (NASA)

Example of lab-on-a-chip (NASA)

Researchers at Linköping University in Sweden have developed a new miniaturized pump that fits on diagnostic chips that can lead to better home medical testing. The findings from this faculty-student team appear in the March issue of the journal Electrophoresis (paid subscription required).

Nathaniel Robinson, who leads the Transport and Separations Group at Linköping University and PhD student Per Erlandsson have invented an improved pump for a microfluidic chip.  Also known as “lab-on-a-chip” devices, they contain channels, sensors, and electrodes that replace beakers and test tubes in the traditional medical lab. The new pump moves fluids such as blood, urine, or saliva through the chip with an electric current.

For the chip to work, however, the pump’s electric current moving the fluids cannot disturb the biological composition of the fluid samples. To meet this requirement, Robinson and Erlandsson  used a type of plastic that conducts the electric current, but still does not give off oxygen or hydrogen that can affect the fluid samples, like traditional metal conductors.

The researchers operated the pump repeatedly for extended periods of time, and can run at relatively low voltages, which means that small, portable diagnostic devices using the pump can be driven by batteries. Robinson and Erlandsson have applied for a patent for the new pump and are currently looking for partners to add the pump to their lab-on-a-chip devices.

Read more: Engineers Advance Laser Welding for Bioanalytics

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