I'm 4th year applied physics student in the Westervelt Lab. I used to study Quantum Computing, but recently switched to biosensing. I'm using this course to gain new perspective on physics and also get back into the habit of thinking about new concepts on a weekly basis.
Final Project: Digital Microfluidics with Electrowetting
Over the past decade there has been a large amount of attention given to developing miniaturized systems capable of doing biochemical analysis primarily for medical applications. This "lab-on-a-chip" concept aims to reduce an entire laboratory worth of highly expensive equipment down the size of one small cheap device which can not only perform the same tests as its larger counterparts, but also more accurately, faster, with less consumption, and with a potential to someday be implanted in the human body to do realtime medical testing. The realization of this technology is heavily dependent on liquid transport in small volumes and thus microfluidics.
Most current microfluidic 'lab-on-a-chip' devices utilize fixed channels for fluid flow and rely on continuous pressure driven flow to actuate the device. Most advanced techniques in microfluidic channel fabrication allow for extremely dense and complicated patterns to created, with many tens or even hundreds of centers for various biochemical analysis to be performed in parallel. While this approach has been very successful, it is very limited and rigid in that once a chip is created for a specific purpose, it cannot be used for anything else, and thus for each different type of test, a different chip is required. This approach also requires high pressures, highly complex fabrication, and most importantly difficult to control, since each different fluid is driven by a separate pressure source, which requires in many cases an unmanageably large volume of tubes to interface with the chip.