UK microfluidics specialists Dolomite have announced that they have been working with Newcastle University as part of a project to explore the application of microfluidics for the synthesis of nanoparticles for use in biochemistry. Microfluidics, often called lab-on-a-chip, 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, for example, electronic and optical detection systems.
For this project Dolomite created a custom glass microchip with multiple reaction chambers. This was manufactured undertaking processes such as lithographic patterning, isotropic etching of glass substrates and the accurate thermal bonding of glass substrates.
“The manufacture of this type of device is a very complex process,” said Dr Gillian Davis, Commercial Director at Dolomite. “However, microfluidics offers high efficiency, versatility, speed, and economy of analysis. This technology also has a very low consumption of reagents and analytes, so it brings both cost and environmental benefits to bioscience and drug discovery projects. Furthermore, its greatest advantage is the ability to perform parallel-array or multidimensional types of analyses in a small localised environment.”
The nanoparticle synthesis project at Newcastle University is headed by Mike Loughran, Team Leader Microfluidics & Sensor Technologies, at the School of Chemical Engineering and Advanced Materials. Working with Dolomite and Dr Andrea Beck from HAS Budapest, Mike Loughran has been exploring, how in the future, scientists will be able to control specific chemical reactions in a localised microchip environment, enabling different nanoparticles to be designed for a specific purpose e.g the synthesis of silicon based fluorescent nanoparticles (quantum dots) to label biomolecules for diagnostic assays, polymeric nanosensors for intracellular analysis and drug delivery, and catalytic nanoparticles for specific chemistries or for purification by adsorbing pollutants.
“I am very happy with the professionalism and attention to detail that I have received from Dolomite,” said Mike. “In particular I am very impressed with the speed of the processing, alignment and bonding of the glass microchips I received from Dolomite. Previously I waited months for clean room glass processing. With Dolomite it was completed within weeks and to a much higher standard.”
Dolomite is now a worldwide 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 for success in bringing microfluidics applications to the market, including; chemistry, biotechnology, control system development, electronics, physics and instrument design and supply.
Established in 2005 as the world’s first microfluidic application centre, Dolomite is focussed on working with customers to turn their concepts for microfluidic applications into reality. With an in-depth understanding of chemistry and the life sciences, expertise in microfabrication and microfluidics, together with instrument design and development capabilities, Dolomite is enabling some of the world’s top providers in fields as diverse as environmental monitoring, drug discovery and forensic science to deliver microfluidic systems to the market place.
About School of Chemical Engineering & Advanced Materials
School of Chemical Engineering & Advanced Materials at Newcastle University provides world class research, undergraduate and postgraduate training on how to meet increasing demand for energy and raw materials, whilst protecting the environment, as well as developing novel materials, production processes and monitoring and control strategies. The School has state-of-the-art labs and facilities which have benefited from considerable investment in recent years.