One long-term goal of the NIST-on-a-Chip (NoaC) initiative is to leverage NIST’s substantial expertise in measuring extremely small amounts of fluids, an area of science known as microfluidics.
Microfluidics has become a fundamental tool enabling a wide range of measurements and applications from medical diagnostics, molecular biology, genetics, and pharmaceuticals to biophysics, chemistry, nanotechnology, and engineering.
The primary apparatus consists of micro-channels that range from millimeters to centimeters in size embedded in silicon, glass, or polymers. The channels can be used to precisely control flow of a single liquid component (e.g. a drug) or be organized into complex networks that facilitate high-speed assays of large arrays of substances (e.g. a gene expression or drug discovery tool). Many microfluidic devices include sensors that have electrical inputs and outputs, as well as photonic sensors. In addition, NIST scientists are exploring ways in which microfluidic systems can be integrated with microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) with feature sizes that can reach nanometer scale.
For information on this aspect of NoaC research, go to this introduction page.