The latest innovation by high-tech British micro engineering company Epigem looks set to further revolutionise the microfluidic industry.
Epigem has been given notice of intention to grant a European and UK patent for their method of providing an embedded fine line seal for the manufacture of highly complex microfluidic devices.
The fine line seal serves to define and enclose lined microfluidic channels and chambers, formed by securing two plies together, allowing fluids to flow through on a minute scale - with the height of the channels typically 100 microns.
From its facilities in Redcar in the Tees Valley, North Yorkshire the firm developed the new micro seal to allow reversible interconnection with, for example, precision optics, micro circuitry or highly sensitive sensors.
In fact, the applications for the embedded micro seal are only limited by the human imagination.
The technology is already being used world-wide in applications from human cell biology to blood work, toxicity testing to cancer screening – allowing scientists to work with highly complex and precise equipment.
They allow the screening of multiple cell samples in very small areas, which means dramatically improving precision and minimising sample and reagent volumes, with significantly less time spent on data collection.
Because of its minute size - actually mimicking blood vessels in the human body – it is ideal for medical research on, for example, stem cells, where only tiny amounts are available.
The versatile micro seals can be used to make different micro environments which can form channels and well arrays of different sizes and shapes and carry out multiple simultaneous tests.
Things behave differently at such a small scale and our micro seal technology is ideal for creating sealed microenvironments – invaluable for medical research and development.
Epigem Managing Director Tim Ryan
The micro seals are particularly useful for integrating multiple materials in a hybrid manner, with each material or device selected to best suit the multiple functions needed to be combined in a single device.
The seals are moulded at the same time as the chip is manufactured and can be designed for a range of operating pressures.
The micro seals can also be used repeatedly, taken apart and re-bonded multiple times – ideal for high throughput assays with multiple automated process steps.
Although this technology is commercially available and being used worldwide, the Epigem team are still discovering its versatility. It’s basically making fluid processing in very small structures a lot more accurate and accessible – meaning easier, faster and more flexible micro engineering.
Epigem is celebrating more than 22 years of innovation in polymer, micro and nanotechnology (MNT) and was the first UK company offering polymer microfabrication services.
Its new micro seal technology not only allows highly precise measurement and cost effective high throughput diagnostic screening, relevant to a wide range of life science applications, but also enables fabrication engineers to very precisely position adhesives when joining or assembling intricate components.
Designing and manufacturing products that deal with sealing and connectivity in the molecular, nano and microscopic realms isn’t easy but Epigem continues to find innovative solutions.
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