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Nanotech: the Tiny Revolution
By: Akinola Akintomide
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    Table of Contents:
  • Nanotech: the Tiny Revolution
  • Digital LOCs
  • Medical Applications of a Lab on a Chip
  • Other Uses for a Lab on a Chip

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    Nanotech: the Tiny Revolution - Other Uses for a Lab on a Chip

    (Page 4 of 4 )

    Lab on Chip technology can be used to prepare blood samples for analysis, and can also be used to extract DNA strands from blood cells; this makes it a flexible tool for researchers in the fields of biochemistry, chemistry, molecular biology and other life sciences. So what possible uses could this microelectromechanical system (MEMS) be put to in future?

    Already companies build custom LOCs for researchers suited to their specific needs. Companies such as Advanced Liquid LogicMicronit Microfluidics and STMicroelectronics intend to build LO's to check for a wide variety of diseases including malaria. This is a particular concern to me; every time my family members travel to Africa, come back to the United States and come down with malaria, they get quarantined because the doctors have no idea what malaria symptoms look like.

    I started looking for some engineering applications for LOCs and I found out that they could help in determining the mechanical properties of fluids, especially mixtures in the food industry and the oil and gas industry. In the food industry, beverage companies come up with new products which have new and unknown properties. The laboratory processes to determine various mechanical and thermal properties take long periods and drain hours of man power. With LOCs, properties such as viscosity, density, compressibility and fluid properties under different temperatures could be identified and recorded.


    Like every technology, labs on chips and in turn nanotechnology has its shortcomings; the field is in the early stages and hence has a lot of unusual areas which are not yet developed. Some clear shortcomings include the fact that detection systems may not scale down as well so we have low signal to noise ratios, with sensors unable to detect end points of reactions.

    Another down side is that factors such as capillary forces come into play more strongly and have to be allowed for during processes. Other disadvantages include the fact that due to the micro fluidic materials being handled, all samples must be concentrated and isolated effectively (sometimes the desired bacteria or viruses is hidden in just a handful of plasma cells). This preparation of samples not only involves isolating materials in relevant areas but also removing all unwanted materials by filtration. This filtration process can lead to the channels becoming clogged or rendered unusable if not cleaned. The isolation, concentration and purification of the sample is hard because of the extremely small volumes being dealt with.


    So now we have a basic knowledge of LOC processes and also an understanding of what the vague term "nanotechnology" means. I thoroughly enjoyed researching this piece. An amusing thing happened while I was researching; I was offered a chance to participate in the design of some PCR machines. Sadly the offer was made in humor, but this piece should help you in your next "geek to geek" conversation, and if you invest in "tech" stocks, at least now you know a little something about nanotech.

    DISCLAIMER: The content provided in this article is not warranted or guaranteed by Developer Shed, Inc. The content provided is intended for entertainment and/or educational purposes in order to introduce to the reader key ideas, concepts, and/or product reviews. As such it is incumbent upon the reader to employ real-world tactics for security and implementation of best practices. We are not liable for any negative consequences that may result from implementing any information covered in our articles or tutorials. If this is a hardware review, it is not recommended to open and/or modify your hardware.
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