If you ask people to imagine a lab, they will most likely describe it as a room filled with all kinds of technical equipment, with lab technicians busying themselves with microscopes and countless glass tubes with liquids. And in fact, this isn’t an inadequate description at all. But changes are taking place.
Many laboratory steps are already taking place on a microscopic scale. All kinds of processes, like mixing, separating, and even heating of liquids, but also counting, measuring, and analyzing specific particles in the liquids can be done on a microscale. This not only enables researchers to make more accurate measurements, but it also requires less use of the often expensive sample material.
Functional miniaturization has been Micronit’s business for a long time. Our customers ask us to enable all possible laboratory processes on chips. Together we devise the desired solution and Micronit designs, validates, and produces a working chip with the necessary process.
But it doesn’t stop there. After all, if you have the option of executing one process on a chip, you can also put multiple processes in succession on a larger chip or platform. In exactly the same order as a lab technician would perform these steps. This allows you to achieve a total lab workflow, in which all steps are fully integrated into one chip and performed automatically. The on-chip processes have a specific routing, and a different process takes place in each zone. Lab workflow automation is one of the most important market trends we see at Micronit. And trends drive our strategy towards the future.
But what are the actual advantages? A general advantage of miniaturization of lab processes is that less sample material is required. In fact, often on-chip volume metering techniques are used to exactly measure the required amount. This prevents waste of the sample material.
Furthermore, all processes that are done on the multifunctional chip are fixed. This greatly reduces the chance of errors. An automated lab workflow rules out the risk of wrong quantities, wrong mixtures, or wrong settings. The responsibility falls less with a person, and more with the technology. This also means less specialized personnel could carry out these processes in bulk. Moreover, the chance that the sample material will be contaminated during the transfer from one process to another is greatly reduced. The undisturbed on-chip flow of the process as a whole ensures the sample to remain pure.
In addition, you can imagine that automatically running the analytical process as a whole is less time-consuming. The total analysis process is faster than in traditional lab settings. And taking this a step further, we can see opportunities to run many tests simultaneously, with a much greater yield of results. For this, see our article about high throughput.
What is the potential of automated lab workflows? In fact, it is similar to all situations in which automation takes place: more results are achieved in less time. This paves the way for an exponential increase in the number of tests that can be performed in less time on an ever-smaller surface. Faster, smaller, more. That is the future.
At Micronit, we keep a close eye on the trends in the markets we serve. This is extremely important from a business point of view, but also inspiring! Would you like to share ideas?