Chemical and biological applications of digital-microfluidic devices


The advent of digital microfluidic lab-on-a-chip (LoC) technology offers a platform for developing diagnostic applications with the advantages of portability, reduction of the volumes of the sample and reagents, faster analysis times, increased automation, low power consumption, compatibility with mass manufacturing, and high throughput. Moreover, digital microfluidics is being applied in other areas such as airborne chemical detection, DNA sequencing by synthesis, and tissue engineering. In most diagnostic and chemical-detection applications, a key challenge is the preparation of the analyte for presentation to the on-chip detection system. Thus, in diagnostics, raw physiological samples must be introduced onto the chip and then further processed by lysing blood cells and extracting DNA. For massively parallel DNA sequencing, sample preparation can be performed off chip, but the synthesis steps must be performed in a sequential on-chip format by automated control of buffers and nucleotides to extend the read lengths of DNA fragments. In airborne particulate-sampling applications, the sample collection from an air stream must be integrated into the LoC analytical component, which requires a collection droplet to scan an exposed impacted surface after its introduction into a closed analytical section. Finally, in tissue-engineering applications, the challenge for LoC technology is to build high-resolution (less than 10 microns) 3D tissue constructs with embedded cells and growth factors by manipulating and maintaining live cells in the chip platform. This article discusses these applications and their implementation in digital-microfluidic LoC platforms. © 2007 IEEE.






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Publication Info

Fair, RB, A Khlystov, TD Tailor, V Ivanov, RD Evans, V Srinivasan, VK Pamula, MG Pollack, et al. (2007). Chemical and biological applications of digital-microfluidic devices. IEEE Design and Test of Computers, 24(1). pp. 10–24. 10.1109/MDT.2007.8 Retrieved from

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Richard B. Fair

Lord-Chandran Distinguished Professor of Engineering

Dr. Fair is a Life Fellow of the IEEE and a Fellow of the Electrochemical Society. He has served as Associate Editor of the IEEE Transactions on Electron Devices (1990-1993) and is past Editor-In-Chief of the Proceedings of the IEEE (1993-2000). He received the IEEE Third Millennium Medal in 2000, and the 2003 Solid State Science and Technology Award from the Electrochemical Society. He has published 150 papers in technical journals, contributed chapters to 10 books, edited eight more books, and given over 115 invited talks.
Our research group will continue to be driven by applications for lab-on-a-chip technology. While funding for microfluidics devices and science is non-existent, applications in environmental engineering, biosensing, diagnostics, genomics, etc. continue to appear. Thus, we have created strategic alliances with faculty in ECE, CEE, chemistry, genomics, biochemistry, microsystems engineering, and computer science at Duke, DUHS, Harvard and Stanford as part of our new thrusts into applications-driven research in bio-fluidic systems. We have funding to glue these critical pieces together. We have also aligned with Advanced Liquid Logic for the development of a more stable electrowetting platform on which to develop applications. And we are working on an NSF grant with Nan Jokerst’s group and Krish’s on an adaptive lab chip to develop on-chip optical sensing and control. Additionally, we have DARPA funding with Stanford, Harvard, and ALL in developing a genomic engineering platform for synthetic biology. Also, we are starting a new NSF grant on airborne particle sensing with Desert Research Institute.


Tina Dinesh Tailor

Associate Professor of Radiology

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