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Shape memory boosts biochips

  July 21/28, 2008
Shape-memory alloys are bits of metal that reversibly change shape. They can be made into tiny valves, pumps and latches, and promise to be a key piece in the puzzle of making sophisticated, portable devices for medical diagnostics and biological research.

Rubber biochips containing hundreds of chambers and channels require bulky external pneumatic or electromechanical devices to control the flow of fluids. Combine rubber biochips with shape-memory alloy devices on printed circuit boards and you get biochips that more closely resemble computer chips.

The biochips could lead to portable devices that make it easier for health-care workers and scientists to diagnose diseases, discover drugs and study biology in remote places.

Research paper:
Electronic Control of Elastomeric Microfluidic Circuits with Shape Memory Actuators
Lab on a Chip, published online July 9, 2008

Researchers' homepage:
Caltech Nanofabrication Group

Related stories and briefs:
Integrated biochips debut -- one of the first rubber biochips

Further info:
How It Works -- Biochips: microscopic plumbing

Back to TRN July 21/28, 2008

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