Prototypical NMR-on-a-chip

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  • Published: Mar 1, 2008
  • Author: David Bradley
  • Channels: NMR Knowledge Base
thumbnail image: Prototypical NMR-on-a-chip

A prototype microfluidic NMR spectrometer developed by researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of California Berkeley can handle tiny fluid samples. The spec-on-a-chip device could have wide application as a highly sensitive analytical device for rapid and high-throughput screening of samples and novel drug candidates.

The Berkeley team recently developed the technique of "remote NMR" for tracking small volumes of fluid or gas flow inside soft materials such as biological tissue or porous rock, for possible applications in industrial processes and oil exploration.

They have now coupled this technology with an NIST sensor, a type of atomic magnetometer, which is a spin-off from NIST's work on miniature atomic clocks, for the customised silicon chip device. The work, which is supported by the Office of Naval Research, US Department of Energy, a CalSpace Minigrant and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, could lead to applications in pharmeutical science and medical imaging diagnostics.

The sensor can pick up the weak NMR signature of tiny fluid samples passing through an onboard microchannel in the device. Detection is most efficient, say the researchers, when the sensor and sample are about the same size and located close together. Lead author Micah Ledbetter of NIST explains that when samples are so small, as is common in economical screening of many chemicals, a small sensor is crucial.

The small size and great sensitivity of the NIST sensor make it ideal for the microchip device. In particular, it avoids the problems of SQUIDs (superconducting quantum interference devices) that require bulky equipment for cooling to cryogenic temperatures or conventional copper coils that need much higher magnetic fields.

Principal investigator Alexander Pines and his colleagues have filed a joint patent application on the device.


The views represented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of John Wiley and Sons, Ltd.

Pines
Pines, putting NMR on a chip
Microfluidic NMR
Microfluidic NMR

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