Australian chemists have invented a new type of lab-on-a-chip device using droplets which are half the width of a human hair.
The devices could have a diverse range of applications, including detecting toxic gases, fabricating integrated circuits and screening biological molecules.
The technique developed by the University of NSW team involves printing a pattern of the miniscule droplets of a special solvent onto a gold-coated or glass surface.
“We use a class of ‘green’ solvents called ionic liquids, which are salts that are liquid at room temperature,” says Dr Chuan Zhao, senior author of the study.
“They are non-volatile, so this overcomes one of the main problems in making useful miniaturised devices – rapid evaporation of the solvents on the chip.”
The droplets of ionic liquid are about 50 micrometres across (about half the width of a human hair) and 10 micrometres high.
The research is published in the journal Nature Communications. It was carried out by Dr Zhao, Christian Gunawan and Mengchen Ge from the UNSW School of Chemistry.
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