Basics of microfluidics
What is microfluidics?
Microfluidics designates the handling of small quantities of liquid, usually in the range of microliters (10-6 liters) to picoliters (10-12 liters). This technology started in the 1980s and is becoming always more popular with the development of microelectronic technologies and microscale chemical analysis.
Microfluidics are used in various applications, such as inkjet printers, blood-cell-separation equipment, biochemical assays, chemical synthesis, genetic analysis, drug screening and chromatography. They are also being more and more used for medicine and now allow for point-of-care (POC) devices.
Why use microfluidics?
By scaling everything down, it is possible to win volume (both for materials and storage space), time and money. It’s exactly what happened with computers. The very first computer took up a whole room. Now, you carry one in your own pocket! And your smartphone is capable of doing much more things than that original computer! Well it’s the same with microfluidics. It helps you make more compact analyses with a better performance. This allows us to use smaller samples and reagents, drastically reducing the costs.
The hardware used to handle microfluidics is different than that used for macrofluidics. It is not possible to simply scale down the devices, as not the same physical laws apply. In particular, the flow of liquid is easier to understand and predict, as only laminar flow applies, whilst most flows are turbulent in macrofluidics.
We specialise in automating the procedures that handle these tiny quantities of liquids. Our aim is to facilitate laboratory experiments and allow automatic sample preparation within instruments. We make it possible to handle multiple liquids automatically within a single experiment. We allow for microfluidic multiplexing...
When liquid flows through a small tube, it is necessary to take into account the fluidic resistance in the tube. This resistance induces a pressure drop that can have a great influence depending on your application.
Many websites exist to calculate this pressure drop, such as:
The information on this paged was based on the following sources:
- George M Whitesides, The origins and the future of Microfluidics, Nature, Vol. 442 (2006)