Contamination-control issues far-reaching with new lab-on-a-chip developments

SCHRAEDING, Austria – The potential for in-body and out-of-body applications for lab-on-a-chip technology is raising two entirely different kinds of contamination-control issues. Both are perhaps years away, but research and development are aggressive, at home and abroad.

EV Group (, based in Austria, is teaming with Singapore’s Institute of Microelectronics (IME; to develop a fully integrated lab-on-a-chip that will perform DNA/RNA analysis extraction, amplification, and detection. For its Micro Total Analysis System, IME has used EV Group’s wafer-processing tools for bonding silicon MEMS wafers to glass wafers-part of a 200 mm wafer process line that is increasing by three times the yield of the large DNA chips.

Ongoing research in lab-on-a-chip technology is raising the bar on contamination-control challenges, both in manufacturing processes and for internal biomedical use. Photo courtesy of NASA.
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The bioMEMS technology is expected to be ready for commercial production in the next two to three years, over which time both critical manufacturing and personnel contamination-control issues will be addressed. BioMEMS, such as are being developed by IME, are increasingly being applied in the biomedical field in minimally invasive surgery, in vivo monitoring, in vitro testing, and “smart” implants.

Meanwhile, at Georgia Tech University in Atlanta, researchers are working to develop a full-analysis spectrometer on one chip that could prove capable of identifying toxins, explosives, or other contaminants. University researchers have been developing the lab-on-a-chip spectrometer concept by integrating laboratory quantum lasers, waveguides and detectors.

Using mid-infrared signatures for molecules that have characteristics of known toxins and explosives, tests have indicated that the lab-on-a-chip prototype can identify almost any suspicious substance after scanning mere parts-per-billion (ppb) of the substance.

Conventional spectroscopy samples hundreds of milliliters, yet sensing inside the Georgia Tech laser-based device has been as low as 30 ppb. The single-chip spectra analysis technology could eventually be housed in a simple handheld device.


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