New Means for Building Lab-On-a-Chip Devices
According to movies and televisions, laboratories are filled with beakers, test tubes, and Bunsen burners, connected by a maze of tubing. In the future though, labs may be the size of a chip and capable of running specialized experiments very quickly. Researchers at the University of New South Wales have recently found a way to build lab-on-a-chips (LOCs) that overcomes some important challenges.
One form an LOC can take is for the channels on it to be comprised of a liquid solvent, placed on the chip in a specific pattern. While printing tiny droplets of a solvent into a pattern is not too difficult, there is the problem of the solvents evaporating. The New South Wales researchers found a way to overcome this by using ionic liquids. These are actually salts that are liquid at room temperature, which removes the evaporation risk. They are also designer materials, so they can be given the special properties an application requires.
The most obvious use of lab-on-a-chips is to perform chemical tests with them, especially medical tests, quickly and cheaply, but this ionic liquid design could have some other uses as well. These include fabricating integrated circuits as metal salts dissolved in the ionic liquids can electrically triggered to deposit onto a substrate.
Source: University of New South Wales