What’s microfluidics? Why blog about it?

To ring in the New Year, I’ve added a new page to the site (see the “What’s Microfluidics?” linkat the top of the screen) briefly explaining what microfluidics is and why I write about it. Even though the field has been around for decades, microfluidics and bioMEMS haven’t yet penetrated the mainstream. Hopefully this page will help visitors to the site get oriented quickly:

What’s microfluidics? Microfluidics is an emerging technology that enables precise, automated manipulation of tiny volumes of fluid (often nanoliters or even picoliters). To quote Wired Magazine, “Microfluidic devices are a lot like computer chips with plumbing.” Microfluidic technology may also be calledlab-on-a-chip technology or micro-Total-Analysis-Systems (microTAS). Why is microfluidics important? Because microfluidics handles such small liquid volumes, the technology may enable cost-efficient, ultra-high-throughput assays in areas like biology and drug discovery. Many groups are also working on microfluidic devices for point-of-care diagnostics as well as therapeutics (e.g., drug delivery). In addition to making existing experimental techniques more efficient, microfluidics can enable new types of experiments. Although microfluidics research has been conducted for decades in academia, the market potential is only beginning to be explored. Why does this blog focus on biomedical microfluidics and microtechnologies? During my Ph.D. research, I developed microfluidic devices for manipulating the stem cell microenvironment. After graduation I transitioned to business strategy consulting in the life sciences, but I still had a lot of questions (both commercial and scientific) about the field. Through this blog I explore some of these questions. I also write about bioMEMS (a larger category of technology that encompasses bio-microfluidics but also includes non-microfluidic devices) and biomedical applications of nanotechnology.