What is Microfluidics 2.0?
When Microfluidics exploded in the 1990's as part of the MEMS/µTAS/Lab-on-a-Chip movement, its main aim was to move from the discrete processing of fluids from container to container using manual pipettes or robots, and integrate the whole process into a monolithic device. Microfluidics did that, and more, but at a cost – there were still pumps and pressure sources and valves needed to push the fluids around, and those things generally were big, expensive, and lived off the chip. So microfluidics 1.n systems are still, largely, in the big well-equipped labs.
Microfluidics 2.0 is all about moving the first generation of microfluidics devices to new settings and markets by removing expensive and cumbersome instrumentation.
By returning to what we’ve known for decades about moving fluids without pumps or valves in porous media, Microfluidics 2.0 offers us a chance to get the hoped-for advantages of microfluidics, but without the expense.
Microfluidics 2.0 has the power to make sophisticated chemical and biochemical measurements much simpler – and a lot cheaper. By piggybacking on the revolution in information technologies, we can move the data generated anywhere in almost no time. We predict that technologies arising from Microfluidics 2.0 will truly revolutionize many critical aspects of our lives:
- Allow quantitative measurement of small molecules, large proteins and nucleic acids at low concentrations in biological fluids rapidly and by anyone.
- Allow minimally trained personnel to perform chemical and biochemical analyses when and where they are needed.
- Medical practice for patient diagnosis
- Epidemiology and biological threat surveillance
- Environmental monitoring
- Agricultural (plants and animal) testing
- Food safety
- Reduce the cost of healthcare in the developed world by commoditizing a wide range of diagnostic tests (as has been done for blood glucose testing) to the point where early and frequent screening for disease is economical, voluntary and ubiquitous
- Bring sophisticated medical and agricultural diagnostics to low-resource settings—e.g., places in the developing world without the funds or infrastructure.
Current microfluidic detection technologies are large benchtop systems or minimally capable, disposable tests. These systems are becoming smaller and more integrated, such that the next generation of microfluidic tests will include easily used disposables that are capable of sophisticated fluidic processing and improved performance.
This technology is so simple and so inexpensive that we think it can be made “in the garages” of many people around the world. The aim of this website is to teach people how this technology works, and how they can do it themselves. While there no doubt is a role for companies large and small to fabricate, validate, and distribute devices to end-users here and around the world, we think that an open-source approach is the best way to kick-start Microfluidics 2.0. While we want to retain editorial control of this particular website, we want you to contribute your thinking, your ideas, and your creativity to this website as a commons for ideas that can change the world. Welcome to our team.