Non-Contact Heating via Magnetic Eddy Current Heat Dissipation
Microfluidics is an incredibly versatile field encompassing a host of disciplines including engineering, biotechnology, physics, chemistry, and microelectronics. One area where miniaturization has proven to be particularly impactful involves analysis of minute quantities of DNA, specifically as a molecular diagnostic technique to detect infectious and pathogenic diseases. Here, a major challenge lies in the design of portable instrumentation used to perform a key step in the analysis. This step, the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), consists of a sequence of thermally activated biochemical processes that selectively replicate well-defined sub regions within a longer DNA strand. The PCR is incredibly efficient (the number of DNA copies increases exponentially with each cycle; 2N after N cycles) and is straightforward to perform. Typically, a reagent mixture containing template DNA, primers, dNTPs, thermostable Taq polymerase enzyme, and buffering agents is dispensed into plastic reaction tubes or multiwell plates that are then inserted into a programmable thermocycling machine. This instrument has a single function: to repeatedly heat and cool the reagent mixture through 30 – 40 cycles between temperatures corresponding to denaturation of the double-stranded target DNA, annealing of primers to complimentary locations on the denatured single-stranded fragments, and enzyme catalyzed extension to synthesize the complimentary strands. However, these thermocycling machines are bulky, slow (30 – 60 minutes for 30 cycles), expensive and power hungry - limiting their application to a laboratory setting and not in the field where they are needed most.
Sample preparation - the first step in most molecular diagnostic assays - is routinely performed in centrifuges to extract and isolate DNA/RNA from the crude human samples. The high rotational speeds obtained in centrifuges, or alternative “Lab on a Disc” platforms led us to consider adaptions beyond just sample preparation. Specifically, it is well known that the high relative motion between conductors and magnets generates heat via eddy currents. We hypothesize that the heat generated via magnetic eddy currents due to the relative motion between conductors embedded on spinning discs and stationary magnets can be harnessed to perform temperature cycles that can actuate rapid and robust PCR. We propose to employ a unique combination of computational and experimental techniques that will, for the first time, determine the system parameters like the rotational speed, magnetic strength, and conductor type to precisely tune the heating/cooling rates and steady state temperatures of the PCR fluid undergoing eddy-current induced heat. The proposed technique has the potential to deliver a new class of molecular diagnostics instrumentation that can integrate both sample preparation and thermal cycling modules into one simplified platform while simultaneously decreasing the device complexity and cost (Fig. 1).
Assistant Professor, CEAS - Chemical & Env Eng
693 Rhodes Hall
Physics of Micro-scale Flows
Fluid flow arising due to thermal gradients (thermal instability driven convective flows) is quite ubiquitous in nature (oceanic currents, cloud formation, etc.) but they can exhibit unique characteristics at the micro-scale, capable of greatly accelerating biomolecular transport and reactions. We use computational tools (Computational Fluid Dynamics) and novel experimental setups (automated microfluidic systems) to study these flow states and evaluate the conditions under which they can be harnessed to actuate biomolecular transport and assembly, accelerate DNA replication and separate cells (based on their shape and size).
Point-of-Care Detection for Global Health
The recent disease outbreaks have exposed some key limitations facing current infectious disease management strategies, particularly when applied in remote underdeveloped areas. Existing approaches are highly resource intensive, relying on dispatching specially trained personnel to isolated locations where biological samples are collected and returned to dedicated laboratories for analysis. A need therefore exists for inexpensive and robust tools that can be broadly deployed to accelerate diagnosis, enable pinpoint delivery of therapeutics, and provide real-time data to better inform decision making. We engineer simple and portable diagnostic tools (such as smartphone based DNA analyzer and lab on a drone) that can be deployed and operated outside the laboratory to address global challenges of healthcare, environmental sampling, agriculture and science outreach. Projects under this area are quite multidisciplinary and collaborative in nature.
Microfluidics enables large-scale automation in chemical and biological sciences, suggesting the possibility of numerous experiments performed rapidly and in parallel while consuming little reagents. This has led to the emergence of the so-called lab on chip systems, making significant strides in diverse areas ranging from grand challenges such as water purification to fundamental research such as genetic analysis. Despite significant advances, few roadblocks has hindered microfluidic systems from replacing convectional bench-top analytical tools and widely penetrate the point of care in low resource settings where they are needed most. We aim to create the next generation of microfluidic devices using rapid fabrication techniques (3D printing, micro-milling and laser cutting) that would drastically simplify the prototyping and assembly processes of microfluidics systems.
We have a few positions open for passionate postdoctoral, graduate (prospective PhD/Master’s applicants) and undergraduate students. Our research is quite multidisciplinary, involving researchers from a wide range of background including engineering (chemical, mechanical, biomedical, electrical and bioengineering), applied physics, biophysics, material science and applied mathematics. Along with frequently publishing our research, we actively explore platforms to commercialize the technologies that are developed in our lab.
If you are interested in joining our lab, please send a copy of recent CV, a brief summary of your projects and a short statement of your research interests to email@example.com.