Optofluidics For Programmable Matter And Solar-Powered Mobile Microfluidics For Global Health

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During my PhD studies I have worked on developing a number of optofluidics-based technologies with a primary emphasis on creating systems that maintain a relatively simple design and infrastructure while achieving a high level of functionality in their ability to perform complex tasks. Generally speaking my projects fall into two categories: programmable matter and global health. Programmable matter is the concept of creating a substance that can be reprogrammed and reconfigured to perform different tasks when the need arises. I developed an assembly technique that utilizes laser heating to create bubbles in a microfluidic environment, which are then used to connect microscale components. By granting the user control over placement of these "bubble latches," arbitrary structures can be formed and reconfigured in situ. My other projects have revolved around developing mobile microfluidic technologies, particularly for global health applications. This is driven by the fact that for all the significant advancements in lab-on-a-chip (LOC) technologies, consumer level uptake of such devices has been limited. This is primarily due to the need for a large number of external components (power source, computer, pump, etc.) to support the microfluidic chip, thus confining most technologies to lab settings. In my work I addressed some of the major overarching limitations of current LOC systems by exploiting the ubiquity of solar energy and smartphone technology to enable new microfluidic-based diagnostics. For example, by using an external light source such as sunlight, I demonstrated the ability to control flow in a microfluidic device without the need for powered pumps or valves. I have also invented a smartphoneassisted solar thermal method to perform polymerase chain reaction, a biochemical technique for amplifying nucleic acids. These novel technologies provide a means to perform complex diagnostics while dramatically reducing the reliance on external power and infrastructure. Such innovations could in the coming years help transform the healthcare landscape, particularly in the developing world.

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optofluidics; global health; mobile health


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Erickson, David

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Craighead, Harold G
Lipson, Hod

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Mechanical Engineering

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Ph. D., Mechanical Engineering

Degree Level

Doctor of Philosophy

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Government Document




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dissertation or thesis

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