NIST Engineers Use Microfluidics to Build a Dropper That Meters Out One Molecule at a Time

Oct. 20, 2009
NIST engineers use microfluidics to build a dropper that meters out one molecule at a time.
National Institute of Standards and Technology, www.nist.gov

Engineers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology have developed a microfluidic “droplet-on-demand” device that spits out droplets about 1 micrometer in diameter (or about half a billionth of a billionth of a liter) that contain a single molecule of a compound of interest. Their goal is to give material scientists and chemical engineers a way to observe chemical reactions between single molecules

The device has a channel through which water flows. The water, which has been laced with molecules of interest to a specific concentration, is squeezed into a narrow stream by a mixture of oils whose viscosity or resistance to flow exerts pressure on it. The water then enters a narrow constriction in the channel and its pressure drops abruptly. Adding detergent at this point breaks up the water’s surface tension, splitting it into small droplets of uniform size. And their size can be adjusted by changing the width of the constriction. The resulting droplets pick up on average just one of the molecules of interest.

Currently, researchers use lasers to move and merge two or more single-molecule-carrying droplets into one larger droplet. They can then watch any chemical reactions using various optical methods.

Sponsored Recommendations

How BASF turns data into savings

May 7, 2024
BASF continuously monitors the health of 63 substation assets — with Schneider’s Service Bureau and EcoStruxure™ Asset Advisor. ►Learn More: https://www.schn...

Agile design thinking: A key to operation-level digital transformation acceleration

May 7, 2024
Digital transformation, aided by agile design thinking, can reduce obstacles to change. Learn about 3 steps that can guide success.

Can new digital medium voltage circuit breakers help facilities reduce their carbon footprint?

May 7, 2024
Find out how facility managers can easily monitor energy usage to create a sustainable, decarbonized environment using digital MV circuit breakers.

The Digital Thread: End-to-End Data-Driven Manufacturing

May 1, 2024
Creating a Digital Thread by harnessing end-to-end manufacturing data is providing unprecedented opportunities to create efficiencies in the world of manufacturing.

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Machine Design, create an account today!