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Monday, 21 November 2011

Team develops lab-on-a-chip device featuring micro fuel cell

The Engineer
Nov 21, 2011

Researchers have built a completely autonomous lab-on-a-chip device, which has an integrated micro fuel cell.

Methanol fuel is used to power the electronics while carbon dioxide (CO2), produced as reaction by-product, pumps the liquid analytes around the channels.

Microfluidic technologies have been touted for some time, and while small devices have been demonstrated they typically rely on large and expensive external equipment such as compressors and various electronic components.

This essentially renders them unsuitable for applications such as point-of-care diagnostics and field work in developing nations.

Around six years ago, a team of Spanish researchers from the National Centre for Microelectronics (CNM) in Barcelona came across the lab-on-a-chip problem.

‘We attended two or three microTAS [Micro Total Analysis Systems] conferences and saw that there were many platforms and a lot of technologies but not many commercial products,’ Dr Neus Sabaté of the CNM told The Engineer.

‘The two main reasons seemed to be the lack of autonomy of these devices and the lack of consensus of which was the best technology to put everything together.’

At this stage, the researchers began investigating micro fuel cells, at a time when there was talk of them being used in laptops and mobile phones.
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