Integrated Multi-Scale Microfluidics
Don L. Devoe, University of Maryland, College Park
In the emerging era of systems biology, where new experimental methods are needed to improve our understanding of molecular networks under cell-, tissue-, and disease-specific conditions, there is growing demand for tools capable of probing biological systems at the molecular level. Enhanced sensitivity, specificity, dynamic range and throughput for the quantitative study of complex molecular populations, enabling accurate and precise determination of the dynamic concentrations of cellular constituents, are necessary to accelerate progress in the field. In this context, the development of nanofabricated materials, structures, and surfaces for biomolecular analysis is an area of significant and promising research. Nanoscale components with characteristic dimensions on the order of the biomolecules themselves offer compelling benefits, such as the realization of sensing elements capable of single molecule discrimination, functional capabilities including molecular confinement, and improved biomolecular separations.
Concurrent with advances in nanofabrication techniques, the maturation of microfluidics technology has presented researchers with a wealth of system-level capabilities for bioanalysis. Looking forward, the confluence of these microfluidic and nanoscale technologies is enabling the development of multi-scale systems for next-generation bioanalysis. Examples of these integrated multi-scale microfluidic systems will be described, including novel platforms for applications ranging from bioanalysis to drug delivery. Microsystems that embrace this multi-scale philosophy, seamlessly integrating micro-scale fluid handling and system-level functionality with nano-scale functional elements, offer compelling advantages that promise to have a sustained positive impact on the biological sciences.