Nanoscale rubber hoses debut

April 9/16, 2003

Researchers from Cornell University have found a way to fabricate flexible tubes whose diameters are 100 nanometers, which is 50 times smaller than the diameter of a red blood cell. The tubes are ten times narrower than those used in today's microfluidic systems, according to the researchers.

The tubes could be used to make stacked, interconnected fluidic networks designed to shunt fluids around biochips that sense and analyze chemicals.

The researchers hit on the method when they noticed that depositing a certain type of polymer into tiny silicon grooves caused the the polymer at the tops of the grooves to close across the gaps, forming tubes. They realized the process could be used to make tiny networks of tubes for use in microfluidics.

The method is also compatible with conventional chipmaking processes, and so can also be used to integrate the networks with electronic chip components.

The process could be ready for practical use in less than two years, according to the researchers. The work appeared in the November, 2002 issue of the Journal Vacuum Science and Technology B.

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