New smartphone-powered lab-on-a-chip can handle liquid samples

A research team from Minneapolis-based University of Minnesota-Twin Cities has developed a lab-on-a-chip that uses a minimal number of moving parts and can be powered wirelessly by a smartphone, Technology Networks reported May 3.

The device functions without bulky components like pumps, tubing and wires that typically prove to be design obstacles, the report said.

"Researchers have been extremely successful when it comes to electronic device scaling, but the ability to handle liquid samples has not kept up," said University of Minnesota-Twin Cities electrical and computer engineering professor Sang-Hyun Oh, the senior author of the study.

The device uses closely-placed electrodes to create strong electric fields that pull droplets across the chip.

Because of the configuration and simplicity, the chip needs less than one volt of electricity to function, which allows it to be controlled with a smartphone using the same technology used for contactless payment in stores, the report said. This is the first time researchers have been able to do so without microfluidic structures. The concept may eventually lead to cheaper, more accessible at-home diagnostic testing.

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