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microfluidics introduction

Microfluidics generally refers to a set of technologies used for controlling the flow and reaction of minute amounts of liquids or gases in a miniaturised system. Undertaking chemical and biological processes at the micro scale introduces wide ranging benefits previously unattainable with macro scale process configurations. Operating with nanolitre to millilitre fluid quantities enables rapid diffusion limited reactions, where the cost of processing expensive fluids, along with the safety implications associated with processing hazardous materials are both minimised. Epigem’s product range offers microfluidic devices that comprise a network of microchannels defined in polymer substrates. With typical channel dimensions in the region of 10s of microns, devices comprising complex networks of fluidic microchannels and interconnects can be defined on ‘microfluidic chips’ the size of postage stamps.

Benefits include:

  • realising new fluidic functions in miniature
  • diffusion limited mixing occurs in seconds rather than minutes or hours
  • reduced cost
  • increased safety
  • increased sensitivity / precision
  • reduced energy consumption
  • scale up by scale out (process intensification)
  • performance optimisation
  • increased speed and precision of temperature control due to low thermal mass
  • reduced waste
  • integration with automated fluid handling systems

Epigem’s microfluidic chips are applicable in a wide range of technologies and markets. In the chemical processing industry for example; reactors, mixers, dispensers, heat exchangers, separators and analysis functions are fundamental ‘unit operations’ that can be realised at the microfluidic scale. In the life sciences industry; high throughput screening and drug discovery, DNA amplification in genomics, and cell analysis (e.g. screening, counting, sorting) are typical application areas. In addition, diagnostic tools and biochemical monitoring of materials such as soil, water, pesticides, and agents used in chemical warfare, further broaden the applications areas.

  • chemical process engineering (micromixers, microdispensers, heat exchangers, microreactors)
  • industrial automation (pneumatics, flow control, sensors)
  • industrial dispensers (glue, solder, lubricants, flavours, scents)
  • power systems (fuel cells, micro-combusters, fluidic microthrusters)
  • ink-jet print heads
  • high throughput screening (miniaturised microtitre plates, dispenser components)
  • drug discovery
  • genomics/proteomics (amplification, separation, hybridisation & sequencing)
  • cell analysis (screening, counting, sorting)
  • diagnostic tools
  • therapeutic tools
  • biochemical monitoring of food, soil, water, air, perticides
  • biological defence
  • implantable drug delivery systems