Microfluidics: A Technology Ahead of it’s Time
Microfluidics make it possible for Phorm’s buttons to rise and disappear. If you are not familiar with this technology, it is the science of controlling fluids at a micro-level through channels. This technology has been around for decades and is unique because it has VERY different uses and applications. Microfluidics projects range from delivering drugs to searching for life on mars. Many companies are researching applications but there is still a lot of work to be done to understand its true potential and fine-tune the processes. This is why not much has come of it yet. Below are several examples of microfluidic products and projects.
Ink Jet Printers:
You’ve probably used a microfluidic device today! This technology is utilized to jet out the drops of ink that create images or text. The drops are 50-60 microns in diameter– Smaller than a human hair!
The very popular company Theranos has created a microfluidic chip technology that uses a very small amount of blood to conduct disease testing. Theranos has been valued at $9 billion but they still have fine-tuning to do for it to be available everywhere. They have been described as an “Uber-like disruptor” of the $75 billion lab test market.
There have been several developments in microfluidics to deliver drugs. These types vary from localized drug delivery: drug loaded/time-released implantable devices, transdermal drug delivery with micro needles within the skin, and drug delivery to one localized spot which eliminates drugs of high concentrations. Future possibilities are implantable microfluidic devices that are biodegradable. No surgery would be needed for removal.
Micro-paths and electricity combine to neutralize the chloride ions in sea water with very little energy use compared to other desalinization options . It can be done with a battery and only needs to be filtered to remove sand and other particles.
Cooligy, Inc. uses microfluidics to create cooling technology for CPUs, ASICS, graphics chips and more.
HJ Science & amp; Technology, Inc proposed a project to demonstrate that microfluidic automation platforms can run bioengineering processes to make next gen biofuels. The microfluidic solution saves labor costs and costs from robotics and reagent materials.
Companies are actively pursuing microfluidics but it is overall still in the research stage. Companies and people see huge discoveries possible in microfluidics but many struggle to have a perfected process. One huge reason why microfluidic products and projects haven’t taken off is that to get good prices you need high volume. It is very hard to come up with a microfluidic system robust enough to be proven in low volume then ramped to high volume afterward to make good money on it. The process is expensive and the energy efficiency is low. The applications could be incredibly useful but in order to find something high value and high volume, your energy and cost needs to be efficient and reliable which is a rare combo for this field.
That’s an advantage of what we (Tactus Technology, the creators of Phorm) do. We’ve created a consumer product with this technology and in large volumes. For us, the microfluidic channels are relatively large compared to other systems that companies are trying to create. This makes it much easier for us to manufacture.
Hopefully as we are successful and grow, it will reassure more companies that microfluidic solutions are achievable and it will motivate investors to take the risk of investing in microfluidics.