New microtweezers may build tiny 'MEMS' structures
January 17, 2012
The tweezers make it feasible to precisely isolate individual stem cell spheres from culture media and to position them elsewhere. Currently, these spheres are analyzed in large groups, but microtweezers could provide an easy way to study them by individually selecting and placing them onto analytical devices and sensors.
"We currently are working to weigh single micro particles, individually selected among many others, which is important because precise measurements of an object's mass reveal key traits, making it possible to identify composition and other characteristics," Savran said. "This will now be as easy as selecting and weighing a single melon out of many melons in a supermarket."
That work is a collaboration with the research group of Timothy Ratliff, the Robert Wallace Miller Director of Purdue's Center for Cancer Research.
The microtweezers also could facilitate the precision printing of chemical or protein dots onto "microcantilevers," strips of silicon that resemble tiny diving boards. The microcantilevers can be "functionalized," or coated with certain chemicals or proteins that attract specific molecules and materials. Because they vibrate at different frequencies depending on what sticks to the surface, they are used to detect chemicals in the air and water.
Generally, microcantilevers are functionalized to detect one type of substance by exposing them to fluids, Savran said. However, being able to microprint a sequence of precisely placed dots of different chemicals on each cantilever could make it possible to functionalize a device to detect several substances at once. Such a sensing technology also would require a smaller sample size than conventional diagnostic technologies, making it especially practical.
The new microtweezers are designed to be attached easily to "translation stages" currently used in research. These stages are essentially platforms on which to mount specimens for viewing and manipulating. Unlike most other microtweezers, the new device is highly compact and portable and can be easily detached from a platform and brought to another lab while still holding a micro-size object for study, Savran said.
- Cagri A. Savran
- 765 494-8601
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