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Introduction to Microfluidic Technology

Microfluidic technology refers to controlling and manipulating small fluid volumes, ranging from micro to picoliters. This technology is not confine to complex chip-based structure but is also applied to much simpler structures such as test strips we use on a daily basis.

How Microfluidic Technology Started

The first microfluidic technology was created in the early 1950s with small volumes of liquids in the nanoliter range. Following a few advanced attempts, "micro total analysis systems," also refer to as "lab-on-a-chip," has led to the beginning of automating complex liquid handling techniques. Microfluidic technology includes simple structures such as pregnancy strip tests and cardiac indicators, as well as far more complicated structures such as microfluidic chips and organ-on-a-chip [1].

Structure of Microfluidic Chip

This is an illustration of a microfluidic chip that NanoEntek was granted a patent for.

Once sample is inserted into the inlet, the sample will then flow through a single microchannel where reaction takes place by going through damper, detector, mixing, reaction and washing zone. Please note that this is just one of the many examples of the microfluidic chip design.

The key components of a typical microfluidic chip are inlet, outlet, microchannel and reaction chamber.

Inlet & outlet : pathways where fluid enters and exits.

Microchannel(s) : the pathway either etched or molded into the chip to control and manipulate fluids for intended interaction in the chip.

Reaction chamber : the area where intended reaction(s) takes places once fluid flow through. Many different types of reaction application can be applied in this area.

Recently, microfluidic technology has grown into a variety of scientific domains, including cell culture. It is commonly known as the "organs-on-a-chip" system and this system is used for growing living cells and building a minimal functioning units. 3D cell culture microdevice designed to mimic the key activities of living organs on a chip. [2]

Example of organ-on-a-chip
Example of organ-on-a-chip

Main applications of microfluidic chip

1. Diagnostics

With portable size, microfluidic chip enables fast diagnosis on-site when applied to point-of-care testing (POCT) devices. Additionally, devices that detect biomarker for diseases by analyzing bodily fluids such as blood and urine also use the microfluidic technology. When analyzing genetic materials and proteins, lab-on-a-chip technology allows for the detection as well.

2. Forensic Identification

Microfluidic technology is not only used in laboratory diagnostic fields but also in DNA analysis for criminal investigation and paternity test.

3. Monitoring

Lab-on-a-chip technology is widely used for monitoring including food quality, livestock health, crop disease, water and air quality. These fields may require high-throughput testing for multiple samples on-site in a short amount of time, the lab-on-a-chip technology became a helpful tool for monitoring.

Advantages of microfluidic technology

1.     Requires very small amounts of samples and reagents

2.     Allows for rapid mixing, reaction, and analysis

3.     High throughput screening and analysis available

4.     All-in-one process from mixing to reacting without manual handling required

5.     Portable size for use in field

6. Cost effective


1.Mark, Daniel, et al. “Microfluidic lab-on-a-chip platforms: Requirements, characteristics and applications.” Chemical Society Reviews, vol. 39, no. 3, 2010, p. 1153,

2.Ashraf, Muhammad Waseem, et al. “Micro Electromechanical Systems (MEMS) Based Microfluidic Devices for Biomedical Applications.” International Journal of Molecular Sciences, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2011,,been%20presented%20for%20biomedical%20applications.

[FREND System]

Rapid quantitative immunoassay analyzer


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