In this article we are going to take a look at some basics of nano technology, with respect to the medical uses via use of Lab on Chip (LOC). This should hopefully not be a science lecture, but it should explain what nanotech is and what all the fuss is about.
Nanotech Essentials: About Lab On Chip Technology
Hopefully everybody reading this article will gain a working knowledge of nanotechnology and its varying applications in several fields. I also plan to have some teasers on possible day to day applications which could become part of our daily lives.
Nanotechnology focuses on the design and manufacture of devices and processes involving sizes of less than one micrometer. A micrometer, or micron, is one millionth of a meter. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter. Nanotechnology was simply a term that was coined since the 1970s by Japanese professor Norio Taniguchi. The principles involved in nanotechnology have been explored since 1959 in science, but now science fiction is really kicking into reality. Before we go into all that, let's look at the basics of a lab on a chip to explain one aspect of nanotechnology.
Micron Moves out of DC World
In the DC Comics Justice League, the member Micron can shrink to microscopic size as well as increase to giant size proportions. This gave him the ability to move in between very small spaces and also the ability to move giant structures. If you are looking for an appropriate analogy to an LOC, it is like Micron's ability to reduce his size, but to what use? Lab On Chips are literally "labs on chips;" they are laboratory processes which function on a single chip which varies from a few millimeters to centimeters in size. That's a pretty small laboratory! These laboratories move fluids around through channels and membranes. The fluids can be a pico liter (a trillionth of a liter) in volume. This is mind bogglingly small.
Not only are these laboratories pumping small amounts of fluids, some have flow meters and sensors to monitor viscosity, as well as valves to control the flow rates (just like a regular refinery). Just like refineries and real laboratories, these little LOCs have found niches in everything from the medical field to mechanical engineering. The whole Lab On Chip principle is based on the scaling down of laboratory processes to chip format.
This "scaling down" affects the cost of experiments and processes, as chips can be made cheaply and in large quantities to process experiments in medicine (detecting diseases pathogens). Process times are shorter for the experiments due to the fact that it takes place in a much smaller space. Power and control capabilities are increased, as are safety and environmental friendliness since the waste effluent is much less. Efficiency is drastically increased due to the fact that the small system is more easily controlled and energy more easily kept from dissipating.
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