Enex Labs

Open Source Science

Lab on a chip, sensory science.

Posted by nxcng on November 4, 2009

There is a very large range of new technologies coming to societies soon which we could get excited about. However  it is important to recognize that because these technologies are not yet mainstream that we are free to find out how they can become mainstream, and that is where we find innovation. This is a subtle and trivial aspect of industry growth… In simple we are still free to blaze a trail into these new industries using the novel features of our new technologies as access points to regions outside of where we have been able to access previously.

An object of considerable potential and importance which would do us well to focus upon with ever increasing attention is the design, theory and construction of mico/nano fluidic “lab on a chip” technologies.
The problems with bringing these lab on a chip technologies into mainstream use do not appear to revolve around problems of construction and design as much as they revolve around human throughput and cost. I have already witnessed working lab on a chip technologies used for a variety of problems. We are at a point where we can give the engineers the problem and some time and they can make something for us. I have seen enough to believe that what is needed for lab on a chip to take off is a standardized library of chip systems to perform exact functions. Once we can standardize this we can make efficient strides in creating an industry capable of producing at an economic rate the products we desire.

The market is very ripe i believe.

One pathway to profit is for investors to choose a single design and invest in heavy production of that. For there are many labs throughout the world studying microfluidics and nanofluidics, lab on a chip systems. However, we must question if all of these labs share a standardized method for the production of specific functions? or do they instead design their own systems for specific and unique goals?
What i have seen is that most labs spend their time improving Lab on Chip devices and creating better systems.

We are playing with something that we have a good enough understanding of to create what we imagine. However our imagination has not yet settled into a standard, but it is fast approaching. Soon the time will be ripe for a standardized function (lab on chip test) to be mass produced at an extremely cheap cost such that the effect had upon industry of relevance to the chip type will be swift.

Consider the hurdles. If we focus only on the medical application of Lab on Chip we can see that there is already a large industry of medical labs which perform many procedures for the medical industry. We must realize that any large scale introduction of lab on a chip technology is going to disrupt an already active industry. We need to consider what incentives we have to disrupt this industry before we can develop a plan to quickly bring lab on a chip to mainstream market.

First we have the private incentive which is purely profit. Any group which can obtain good returns on their lab on a chip investments is naturally inclined to have incentive to do so.
There are also many possible benefit incentives, whereby use of lab on a chip is able to increase the speed and efficiency of medical lab and in return the whole medical industry. With the ability to do more screening and testing for less money and in less time we are also able to obtain more data within a given field. This is very exciting, if you could imagine that people could get “lab work” done in a simple small clinic visits then you can have a very clear picture of the data available within a given area. In essence, one of the prime incentives for large groups to adopt lab on a chip technologies is that it will allow them access to more complete data sets.
This is all very speculative of course, and we say nothing about how it is that Lab on a Chip will actually go mainstream.
For that issue i firmly believe that the best course of action is for small lab on a chip foundries to spring up in hospitals and near small clinics which can produce and keep inventory of the actual “labs on a chip”. Thus, if a local clinic wants to do some special order lab work they can contact the local lab on a chip foundry and tell them what they need, whereby the technicians in that lab will look up the needed chip in a data base and fabricate it on the spot for use by the medical worker. Or, if the medical worker needs a standard chip for blood tests they can be relieved to know that the local lab has plenty of those stocked… The medical worker may even have some on hand in his office ready to use.

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