U researchers produce mini-lab

By By Natalie Hale

By Natalie Hale

A credit-card sized piece of silicone could be the reason you will get your medical lab results faster in the future.

With any luck, the “micropump” developed by two U researchers will one day replace all the necessary items currently used for medical lab testing–and the design is small and inexpensive.

The versatile miniature lab technology was developed by accident by Bruce Gale, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and Mark Eddings, a graduate student in bioengineering.

“The primary purpose for these pumps is medical testing,” Gale said. “It allows for more fluids to be moved to different locations very quickly.”

The silicone-based “micropump” is smaller than a credit card and comprises three different layers. It is pliable to the touch and is reminiscent of bathroom caulk, as the two share the same basic properties.

“The benefit of using silicone is that it allows for gases to go through it, but won’t allow for the liquids to escape,” Eddings said.

The miniature sizing of the pump will also benefit researchers, as they will be able to conduct experiments more quickly.

“Because of how small it is, the pump is much faster,” Gale said. “Chemistry in smaller dimensions allows for diffusion to happen faster.”

The pump is pretty generic, said Eddings, and has multiple uses for other areas, such as quick DNA analyses, glucose testing and any other kind of testing for which a liquid sample is taken.

While Gale and Eddings will use the pump for ongoing research and development of other micro-medical technologies, they said they don’t plan to see it being used in other medical labs for a while.

“Realistically, it won’t be available for labs to use for another 3-4 years, and will be a part of a larger system,” Gale said.

An outline of the development of the pump was featured in the November issue of the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering.

Kim Peterson

Graduate student in bioengineering, Mark Eddings explains the potential of the micropump he and fellow graduate student Bruce Gale created Friday in the Merrill Engineering Building. The micropump-a series of channels in a small, solid disc that can fit in the palm of your hand-has the capability to revolutionize research and medical lab testing.