Micro/nanofluidics (MF) is an enabling technology with tremendous potential to revolutionize the way we live. There are numerous research efforts aimed at developing MF products for healthcare (diagnostics, testing, therapeutics, drug discovery), environmental monitoring, chemical analysis, materials synthesis, and biodetection. Through the years MF has received large investments and raised high expectations, yet there are still very few real products on the market today.
Why? Until now individual MF technologies were always partial solutions to critical problems. Most applications require the combination of several MF technologies (microfabrication, transport, sorting, separation, detection, and interconnects). Although relatively complete lab-on-a-chip devices have been realized, these generally cannot be connected with any other lab-on-a-chip due to incompatibilities (process, physical connections, etc). World-to-chip and chip-to-chip MF interfaces remain a major roadblock in truly miniaturizing and integrating these units to fulfill the real needs of industry and the Department of Defense. Furthermore, few MF fabrication processes currently employed are truly manufacturable. They do not scale up well and cannot be automated. The entire approach to MF development needs to be re-thought.
A modular approach will allow greater flexibility in application-specific MF design. Standard manufacturable processes facilitate integration of the modules, which in turn facilitates higher functionality. Thus, standard, integratable modular platforms (SIMPs) and their incorporation via manufacturable processes toward implementing low-cost, on-chip integrated multi-analyte molecular analysis is the mission of the Micro/Nano Fluidics Fundamentals Focus (MF3) Center.
To reach our goals, MF3 is focused on the advancement of fluidic surface and interface analyses/chemistries, and MF design and modeling methods through the development of economical and modular platforms (SIMPs). We also aim to establish standard, manufacturable fabrication processes for MF. Progress made in these areas will lead to new bioanalytical microsystems as well as expedite micro/nanofluidic commercialization.
Formed in 2006, The Micro/Nano Fluidics Fundamentals Focus Center is headquartered at the University of California, Irvine and performs fundamental micro/nano fluidic (MF) research to develop standardized MF integration processes and device technology. Major reserach thrusts include (1) chip-level integrated molecular analysis and (2) advanced manufacturing of MF devices. the MF3 Center brings together leading micro-and nano-fluidics researchers from universities nationwide from the disciplines of biomedical engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and chemistry. MF3 research is expected to apply to many areas including health care, electronics, and environmental and food monitoring. MF3 is funded by the center's industrial members who provide real-world problems to guide and channel the MF research. MF3 is a spin-off of activities ongoing at the Integrated Nanosystems Research Facility, an interdisciplinary research laboratory at the Henry Samueli School of Engineering at U.C. Irvine.