Lab-on-a-Chip: A Small Drop with a Big Impact

Analyzing liquids like water or blood is costly and time-consuming. New technology at the JKU is changing the process. While it may sound very technical, it is a hands-on method that can save lives.

The "Lab-on-a-Chip" (LoC) is a single microfluidic chip that can conduct chemical/biological tests currently carried out only in conventional laboratories. Droplets of samples are transported through micrometer-thin channels on credit card-sized chips, requiring only the smallest amounts of a sample. Compared to conventional methods, this approach is cost-effective and fast.

The difficult part is obtaining the right size sample at the right moment, referred to as a "droplet-on-demand". Currently available methods are complex and expensive, requiring, for example, vacuum pumps or integrated valves. Medina Hamidović and her team at the Institute of Communications Engineering and RF Systems (JKU) have succeeded in developing a simple, cost-effective droplet generation method using a controllable pressure pump to switch between two states of pressure, generating the desired pressure state.  Using a fast and cost-effective process, the microfluidic chips were manufactured entirely at JKU.

Elveflow, one of the world's leading manufacturers of microfluidic devices, has already introduced the new technology created at the JKU.

And what does this mean when it comes to real-world practices? Well, for example, poorer countries have access to a less expensive water testing system to help prevent and avoid epidemics in the future.