February 18, 2003
Nanotech Sensors For Microfluidics Devices

Microfluidics devices will be enhanced by embedded carbon nanotube sensors.

San Jose, Calif.--February 3, 2003--Cutting edge research is setting the stage for the practical deployment of carbon nanotubes as flow sensors. Studies drawing on both electrokinetic phenomena and slip boundary conditions are offering in-depth understanding of microfluid flow in restricted microchannels.

Complex experiments have now demonstrated that the Coulombic effect, involving direct scattering of free charge carriers from fluctuating Coulombic fields of ions or polar molecules in the flowing liquid, is stronger than the phonon drag effect in generating electric current/voltage.

The outcome has been the emergence of a model for a practical flow sensor, capable of being downsized to small dimensions as short as the nanotubes.

A new avenue has thereby been created to gauge flow in tiny liquid volumes, with high sensitivity at low velocities and exceptionally rapid response times.

Microfluidics will accelerate the rate of advance of biological science and technology. Microfluidic devices will certainly need a variety of built-in sensors. One application for microfluidic devices will be automated mini test labs to allow blood tests to be done right in a doctor's office or even at home.

Of course all technologies have their downsides and we need to learn to look at every technology and ask how it might (or, rather, will) be abused. In the face of microfluidics one method of abuse would be to use it to make biowarfare agents. A really complex microfluidic device ought to be able to synthesis a viral pathogen. This could even be used to carry out assassinations. Make a pathogen and put it on the surface of something the target is about to touch.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2003 February 18 11:27 AM  Nanotech for Biotech

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