In the world of scientific instrumentation, there is a big change happening. Just as complex electronics circuits have been scaled down to fit into tiny microchips, a similar transition is occurring in the world of chemistry. This lab-on-a-chip technology is called Microfluidics. It is an exciting new field of science and engineering that enables very small-scale fluid control and analysis, allowing instrument manufacturers to develop smaller, more cost-effective and more powerful systems. With lab-on-a-chip technology, entire complex chemical management and analysis systems are created in a microfluidic chip and interfaced with electronic and optical detection systems.
It is a technology that has the potential to massively impact such diverse areas as DNA testing, environmental control, fuel cell development and a broad range of biotech applications. UK company Dolomite is a leader in this field. So much so, that in 2005 they won funding from the UK Department of Trade and Industry’s Micro and Nano Technology (MNT) Manufacturing Initiative.
This £2m funding has allowed Dolomite to establish excellent microfabrication facilities with cleanrooms, precision glass processing facilities and applications laboratories. In addition to this, Dolomite has managed to attract top quality engineering and scientific staff with strong backgrounds across the broad range of disciplines required to successfully bring microfluidics applications to the market – including chemistry, biotechnology, control system development, electronics, physics and instrument design and supply.
“Microfluidics is certainly an exciting new technology with a huge potential,” said Dr Gillian Davis, Commercial Director of Dolomite. “We see it impacting patient care systems, forensic science, drug and environmental testing equipment and any number of similar types of systems that need to control and measure liquids at a micro scale. Microfluidics is enabling this kind of system to be smaller, far more accurate and more simply manufactured.”
The fabrication processes used to create a microfluidic device have some similarity to those used in the electronics industry. The channels through which the fluids flow and interact are etched into materials such as glass or polymers using similar photolithography processes. The patterned layers are then very accurately aligned and fused together and drilled to provide microscopic ports through which the chemicals or gases can enter and leave the device.
“Designing and manufacturing microfluidic devices employs a broad range of disciplines,” said Gillian Davis. “At Dolomite, it’s not just our experience and expertise in microfluidic device design and fabrication that puts us ahead of the competition, but also the fact that we have extensive experience in designing and developing microfluidic connectors, pumps and control systems. We also have complete instrument design and supply capabilities that enable us to provide the full range of services required to truly help customers realize their microfluidic objectives.”
Dolomite is fast becoming a global company with an office in the US and distributors throughout Asia. Its clients range from universities developing leading edge analytical equipment to manufacturers of chemical, life sciences and clinical diagnostic systems.
“In many ways, this is early days,” said Gillian Davis. “Some of the dialogue we are having with future prospects tells us that this technology has huge potential in the commercial world and we are working hard to make sure that we are equipped to meet this demand.”
Dolomite is a world leader in Microfluidics, an emerging technology that is changing the future of instrument design. Microfluidics is a technology that enables small-scale fluid control and analysis, allowing manufacturers to develop smaller, more cost-effective, and more powerful systems. Dolomite provides off the shelf solutions, custom designs, system integration and microfluidics training for instrument development teams. With a worldwide sales presence and a highly motivated and passionate team of engineers and scientists, Dolomite helps instrument manufacturers take their designs to the next level.