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MEMS and medicine


Using technology borrowed from the semiconductor industry, companies are putting micron-sized components inside medical and biochemical devices. In this MEMS device built at Sandia National Laboratory, the top jaw closes on individual red blood cells as they cross the microchannel which is 20 microns wide. The idea is to puncture the cells, inject them with DNA, proteins, or pharmaceuticals, and have them survive the process. Electrical and chemical methods of opening red blood cells for insertions kills too many cells. So far, researchers have only been able to get the device, nicknamed Pacman, to pummel red blood cells at up to 10 times a second. One method of manipulating small micron-sized objects used by engineers at Nanogen creates a force field by varying the pressure and suction delivered through an array of capillary tubes. It can move several objects simultaneously and also hold an object still. This serpentine channel created by Micralyne on silicon could be used to check sperm for motility. A filter designed and built by Micralyne could be used to separate blood cells from platelets. The microfluidic toolkit from Micralyne gives engineers all the tools they need to design, build, and operate simple MEMS devices with mechanical, electrical, and fluid-handling features. It is designed to give engineers an idea of what MEMS can and can’t do. Manufacturing MEMS devices requires clean-room conditions. Researchers are using MEMS to expand the bandwidth of telecom transmission lines. This mirror, for example, could be used in an optical switch used in fiberoptic networks. The promise of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), — building devices on the micron scale





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