WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Researchers have invented a technique that uses inexpensive paper to make "microfluidic" devices for rapid medical diagnostics and chemical analysis.
The innovation represents a way to enhance commercially available diagnostic devices that use paper-strip assays like those that test for diabetes and pregnancy.
"With current systems that use paper test strips you can measure things like pH or blood sugar, but you can't perform more complex chemical assays," said Babak Ziaie, a Purdue University professor of electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering. "This new approach offers the potential to extend the inexpensive paper-based systems so that they are able to do more complicated multiple analyses on the same piece of paper. It's a generic platform that can be used for a variety of applications.
Findings are detailed in a research paper published online this week in the journal Lab on a Chip.
Current lab-on-a-chip technology is relatively expensive because chips must be specifically designed to perform certain types of chemical analyses, with channels created in glass or plastic and tiny pumps and valves directing the flow of fluids for testing.
"Our process is much easier because we just use a laser to create patterns on paper you can purchase commercially and it is already impregnated with hydrophobic material," Ziaie said. "It's a one-step process that could be used to manufacture an inexpensive diagnostic tool for the developing world where people can't afford more expensive analytical technologies."
The strips might be treated with chemicals that cause color changes when exposed to a liquid sample, with different portions of the pattern revealing specific details about the content of the sample. One strip could be used to conduct dozens of tests, he said.
The strips might be inserted into an electronic reader, similar to technology used in conventional glucose testers. Color changes would indicate the presence or absence of specific chemical compounds.
The research paper was written by graduate students Girish Chitnis, Zhenwen Ding and Chun-Li Chang; Cagri A. Savran, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, biomedical engineering and electrical and computer engineering; and Ziaie.
The National Science Foundation funded the work.
The researchers have patented the technique and it is available for licensing through Joseph Trebley, senior project manager for the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization, at 765-588-3832, email@example.com (www.prf.org/otc).
Writer: Emil Venere, 765-494-4709, firstname.lastname@example.org Source: Babak Ziaie, 765-494-0725, email@example.com Related website: Babak Ziaie: engineering.purdue.edu/ECE/People/profile
Contact: Emil Venere firstname.lastname@example.org 765-494-4709 Purdue University