Microfluidics company Dolomite have announced that they are collaborating with Japanese technology company Nano Fusion Technologies (NFT), in the application of electro-osmotic micro pump technology for use in microfluidic applications. This collaboration will enable the development of very small scale pumping systems for use in such areas as drug delivery, drug discovery, point of care systems and a broad range of biotech applications.
Microfluidics, a technology also known as ‘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.
“There is no doubt that microfluidics is starting to revolutionise instrument design,” said Dr Gillian Davis, Regional Sales Manager for Dolomite. “The considerable benefits of microfluidic chips are now widely understood but the challenge remains in how we integrate them into complete systems. In this respect, the NFT technology is very exciting for our industry. This micro pump technology has a very small footprint and no moving parts, so is ideal for handheld and portable systems. In addition to this, it offers a very smooth flow, precise control and is capable of very low delivery volumes; making it ideal for clinical diagnostics, drug delivery and drug discovery applications.”
The micro pump is operated by applying a DC voltage and can also be controlled using a PWM (Pulse Width Modulated) signal to deliver variable flow rates for specific delivery requirements. The Dolomite/NFT solution also uses a specially developed porous material within the pump that enables the device to deliver at pressures of more than 100 kPa. Although the working liquid for optimum use of the pump is de-ionised water, using indirect pumping methods, the micro electro-osmotic pump can be used with any liquid.
The micro pump can also be supplied with a power source and a flow sensor to assist in the early development of a system. The power source allows variable voltages to be applied to the pump and the highly accurate flow sensor provides the necessary feedback for stable control. This system is then interfaced to a personal computer to enable control and analysis.
“The fact that this is a device intended for mounting on a PCB really does indicate the direction in which microfluidics is heading,” said Gillian. “It’s increasingly where chemistry meets electronics, and it’s opening up a whole new generation of possibilities in instrument design. We are seeing enormous interest in our work, from all around the world. Microfluidics is very much an emerging technology that is now being adopted by scientists and engineers working on commercial projects.”
Dolomite is a leader in the field of microfluidics. They have previously won £2m in funding from the UK Department of Trade and Industry’s Micro and Nano Technology (MNT) Manufacturing Initiative; this allowed Dolomite to establish excellent microfabrication facilities that include 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.
Dolomite is fast becoming a global company with offices in the UK, US and Japan and distributors throughout the rest of the world. Its clients range from universities developing leading-edge analytical equipment, to manufacturers of chemical, life sciences and clinical-diagnostic systems. Dolomite and NFT will be co-exhibiting at µTAS 2008. The 12th International Conference for Miniaturized Systems for Chemistry and Life Sciences is being held at the Sheraton Hotel & Marina, San Diego, CA, USA, October 12-16, 2008.
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.