Scheme: Wolfson Research Merit Awards
Organisation: University of Glasgow
Dates: Apr 2010-Nov 2015
Summary: The research, which involves the development of a new technique and new instrumentation, is dependent upon the complex interactions between sound waves, microstructured surfaces and liquids. In some cases, the liquids may have particles, such as cells, in them. The sound waves are generated by electronic components called Surface Acoustic Wave (SAW) devices, which already exist in the telecommunications industry and are used for signal enhancement (e.g. in mobile phones). Existing SAW devices function through the interaction between applied voltages and a particular type of wafer, called a piezoelectric chip. The voltage induces a mechanical ripple in the uppermost layer of the wafer that propagates across the surface of device, producing an acoustic wave.
Our aim is to use the mechanical pressure created by the sound wave to move or manipulate fluids in order to create new methods by which samples, such as blood, can be analysed. Our overall aim is to create a "tool-box" of technologies which can be used to produce different fluidic functions for analyzing biological samples. The technology could open the way for new types of hand-held, medical diagnostic devices. In one application, I wish to separate cells upon the basis of their mechanical properties. For example, it is well established that the highly deformable red blood cell becomes much stiffer when infected by malaria parasites. This difference in the mechanical properties between infected and un-infected blood cells may make it possible to diagnose malaria with a SAW device. This new, hand-held, technology could replace the large instruments and microscopes, currently used for malaria diagnosis in rural communities throughout the Developing World.