Microfluidics… What for?

Microfluidics is the science and manipulation of micrometric scale fluids and channels. Microfluidics is a fast growing discipline that already occurs in nature (i.e. tree sap, blood capillaries...). To replicate micrometric scale channels, devices are commonly fabricated in clean rooms where particle concentration, temperature and hygrometry are carefully monitored. For that, top-down technologies historically used in microelectronics are employed (photolithography, plasma etching, thin film deposition...).

Miniaturized laboratories on a 1-cm2 device (Lab-On-Chip) are developed for operations such as detection, filtration, and separation, to analyze biological or chemical samples. Some teams are working on early diagnosis of cancer cells in blood; others on pollutant detection in water or air. In a near future, organ functions will be integrated on chips in order to develop new tools to limit in vivo molecule testing or physiological cell behaviour study.
There is a significant number of industrial applications, such as healthcare, energy, green chemistry, cosmetics, food industry...

In 10 years, microfluidics has become one of the most promising scientific fields, able “to change the world“(according to the MIT’s Technological Review). More than thousands of researchers and engineers are involved in this revolution all around the world. The microfluidics market is evaluated at $6billion per year with a 15% growth rate (source: BCC research, 2013).