Microfluidics devices are tiny systems with microscopic channels that can be used for chemical or biomedical testing and research. In a potentially game-changing advance, MIT researchers have now incorporated microfluidics systems into individual fibers, making it possible to process much larger volumes of fluid, in more complex ways. In a sense, the advance opens up a new “macro” era of microfluidics.
Traditional microfluidics devices, developed and used extensively over the last couple of decades, are manufactured onto microchip-like structures and provide ways of mixing, separating, and testing fluids in microscopic volumes. Medical tests that only require a tiny droplet of blood, for example, often rely on microfluidics. But the diminutive scale of these devices also poses limitations; for example, they generally aren’t useful for procedures that need larger volumes of liquid to detect substances present in minute amounts.
A team of MIT researchers found a way around that, by making microfluidic channels inside fibers. The fibers can be made as long as needed to accommodate larger throughput, and they offer great control and flexibility over the shapes and dimensions of the channels. The new concept is described in a paper appearing this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, written by MIT graduate student Rodger Yuan, professors Joel Voldman and Yoel Fink, and four others.