A Lab-on-a-Chip (LOC) is a system which integrates one or more laboratory functions onto a chip the size of a few millimetres or centimetres squared. The world of Lab-on-a-Chip is also referred to as "Micro Total Analysis Systems" (µTAS). The miniaturisation that is needed for the integration of laboratory functions onto such a small surface is made possible by the combination of microelectronics such as those used for computer chips and microfluidics, the manipulation of fluids on a microscopic scale.
One of the most important aspects of miniaturisation is the difference in scaling between volume and surface area. Try reducing the edges of a cube by a factor of two. The surface is now 4 times smaller and the volume 8 times smaller. This means that physical effects that are surface-related will eventually predominate when compared to effects that are volume related. This creates many new opportunities, but also some challenges.
Some advantages of LOC are:
Since the first silicon-based transistor in 1954 the field of semi-conductor electronics has made huge leaps that have lead to very advanced structures and production technologies that have in turn led to, amongst other things, mobile telephone technology as we currently know it. It is these production technologies that are extensively used to make LOC and the materials used for this are also derivatives of silicon. Glass in various forms is a good example of this. In the meantime, the possibilities for LOC are expanding and work is also being done with plastics such as PDMS.
Medimate works closely with, amongst others, the University of Twente in the area of Lab-on-a-Chip. For more information about Lab-on-a-Chip we direct you to the website of Prof. Dr. Ir. Albert van den Berg.