Contents - March 2004
Welcome to the second edition of Newslyne, Micralyne's quarterly e-newsletter. This newsletter covers topics relevant to the MEMS industry and recent news from Micralyne. We hope you find it interesting, relevant and easy to read.
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In our last edition of Newslyne, I talked about the uncertainty facing the MEMS industry. The upheaval experienced by fabrication and product companies along with their suppliers over the past two years has been significant and is still not over. However, as of today, we can point to specific - and real - events indicating that things are in fact turning around.
On the negative side, there have been recent announcements regarding the closure of MEMS fabs including Corning Intellisense last fall and PHS MEMS in February. These events, on one hand, are a positive for Micralyne as we are financially stable and a viable alternative for the customers of those going out of business. However, we would actually prefer to see a strong and growing industry where there is more than enough business for all MEMS suppliers. We see the closures of the last year as some of the final aftershocks from the excess investment in capacity that occurred in the late 1990s, and a natural part of the growth of the MEMS industry.
On the positive side, we have seen a number of indicators pointing towards new growth opportunities. While we have always been optimistic, events in the first quarter of 2004 should have a positive impact on the industry's overall health. As reported in Small Times and other publications, numerous MEMS-focused companies have secured significant rounds of financing over the past few months. These include Akustica, Polychromix, Sensicore, Ion Optics, Teravicta, Kionix, Metconnex and others. While financing does not always translate into business success, it is a key building block of the industry and indicates renewed confidence in MEMS being a key part of a product solution.
While some of the financed companies are customers of Micralyne, our other customers are seeing growth in new orders from their customers. The fact that actual orders are being secured - as opposed to customer interest - is a strong indicator of future growth.
Challenges remain, however, and we at Micralyne are strong proponents of working with the industry as a whole to address issues we are all facing. In particular, the COMS 2004 Conference planned for August 29 September 2, 2004 in Edmonton, Alberta is focused on the issues surrounding the commercialization of MEMS and nano technologies. The conference, which attracts hundreds of attendees from around the world, is celebrating its 10th anniversary and serves as a valuable forum for MEMS and nano companies from all sectors to discuss key issues, network with peers, and learn about effective commercialization strategies. (www.mancef.org/coms2004.htm)
As well, Micralyne is a member of the MEMS Industry Group, which also serves as a valuable forum for discussing issues facing MEMS companies such as reliability, standards and advocacy. (www.memsindustrygroup.org)
Micralyne is excited by the prospects of 2004 and beyond. Our customers are growing and we believe their growth will parallel that of the industry. Please enjoy this edition of Newslyne and let us know if you have any feedback or questions.
- Chris Lumb, President & CEO, Micralyne Inc. -
Laplace Pressure on Microfluidic Chips
Developing a microfluidic device presents many issues that are not prevalent in the macro world. Unique expertise is required to create manufacturable products that will be a commercial success. This Tech Brief describes one common challenge in microfluidics and how it's addressed.
There are many advantages to be reaped by moving chemical analysis from conventional millimetre-sized fluidics to the ca. 20 µm channel sizes found in microfluidic chips. Faster chemical and thermal diffusion, faster separations with higher resolution, lower sample consumption, integrated operations (injection, pre-column reaction, separation, post-column reaction and detection all occurring on the same chip) and portability are all advantages that have been realized in research devices as well as a few products. That said, there are also a number of inherent challenges that arise from making this leap. Effective integration of different sample manipulation stages, detection of the very small volumes of analytes that are resolved on the chip and connection to the milli- or microlitre-sized samples of the real world are all non-trivial issues to be dealt with. We will address the effects of microlitre-sized samples and Laplace pressure on microfluidic separations.
Laplace pressure arises from the surface tension of a liquid, for example at its interface with a gas in a solid container. The pressure exists across the curved surface of the meniscus and varies inversely with the radius of curvature. Laplace pressure is responsible for water being drawn into a wick or capillary made of a hydrophilic (or "water-loving") material such as glass; for water rising in a capillary, the pressure is lower below the meniscus (in the water).
When performing a free-zone electrophoretic analysis on a microfluidic chip, the chip is first filled with aqueous solution by capillary action, but when the samples and reagents are pipetted into wells on the chip, Laplace pressure also acts by virtue of the menisci in those wells. The wells are typically small, a few millimetres in diameter, so the surface of the liquid sample will have a small radius curve to its meniscus, depending on the nature of the reagents, chip materials used and their surface treatment.
We'll use an experimental example to illustrate. A researcher starts with equal meniscus levels and curvatures at all reservoirs (of identical size) and, over the course of several experiments, drives liquid intentionally along the network of channels with a pump or power supply to effect the analyses. There will also be 'unintentional' liquid flows or factors affecting flow, such as evaporation, buffer depletion and resultant changes in electroosmotic flow (EOF), siphoning, Joule heating and Laplace pressure. For simplicity, we will ignore all other unintentional contributors to flow and only consider Laplace pressure in this context. As liquid is intentionally driven from one well to another, each well's meniscus, anchored at the top of the well, changes shape: the meniscus deepens in the depleted well (decreased radius, increased pressure), and becomes more shallow in the receiving well (increased radius, decreased pressure). As a result, liquid will flow under Laplace pressure against the intentional flow to the depleted well (from high to low pressure), quite independent of siphoning considerations. Another way to view the flow is to consider the solution's surface skin to be elastic, like a balloon, and anchored at the top of the well. As liquid is intentionally pumped from one well to the other, it stretches the skin down in the depleted well, and allows it to relax upwards in the receiving well; in reaction (and in the absence of external pumping), the surface tension draws the liquid back into the depleted well to relax the stretched skin.
Under the conditions explored on a Micralyne Standard Chip, flow driven by Laplace pressure was found to be ~ 10 to 20 times larger than siphoning flow, and on the order of EOF (0.4 - 0.8 mm/s vs. 0.6 mm/s for EOF at 150 V/cm). Using a standard cross injection protocol on this chip, Laplace pressure was found to cause backflow from the sample waste reservoir into the separation channel, which in turn caused an increase in background fluorescence signal.
Micralyne, a pioneer in microfluidics, has significant know-how in effectively addressing such issues when developing and manufacturing microfluidic devices. We encourage you to contact us for more information or, to read more on this specific topic, please refer to the following publication:
H. John Crabtree, Eric C. S. Cheong, Daryle A. Tilroe and Christopher J. Backhouse, "Microchip Injection and Separation Anomalies Due to Pressure Effects," Analytical Chemistry 73, 4079-4086 (2001).
Micralyne Reports Great Progress in Polymer MEMS
Until recently, polymer MEMS devices have been relatively simple microfluidic chips. Micralyne Inc. has recently been taking these simple devices and transforming them into more complex tools that include such elements as heaters, sensors and electrodes. These integrated thin film components change a static device into an active component that can interface with the macroscopic world. If you are interested in having Micralyne provide thin film metallization on polymer MEMS or microfluidic devices, please contact us. ::Send PolyMEMS Request
Micralyne Offers Limited Time Discount on Standard Chips
Micralyne is currently offering all in-stock standard microfluidic chips at an attractive discount for a limited time - so place your order before March 26, 2004.
Micralyne's off-the-shelf chips are useful within a variety of chemical and biochemical analyses using capillary electrophoresis with laser-induced fluorescence. These chips are available in a few simple designs for single sample injection.
For more information, please contact Donna Bonsteel at +1.780.431.4406 or by email at email@example.com.
Micralyne Invites You to Submit a Paper for COMS 2004
COMS is the leading international conference on the commercialization of MEMS/MST/micromachining and nanotechnology. This conference, organized by the Micro and Nanotechnology Commercialization and Education Foundation (MANCEF), will be held in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada from August 29 to September 4, 2004. COMS 2004 will bring together key people from all over the world and from every sector of the supply chain, including top researchers in the field, equipment suppliers, end users and financial experts.
Topics include: roadmapping, strategic management, standards, the role of foundries, investment strategies, the role of venture capital, government's role in commercialization, education and training, and more.
Abstract submissions must be sent electronically and can be submitted in Microsoft Word (*.doc) or Adobe Portable Document Format (*.pdf). An abstract must not exceed 500 words. The subject line of the E-mail should contain "coms2004" and the name of the principal author. Please send abstracts to COMS Program Committee by clicking the following link. COMS2004papers@nanomems.org
Abstract Submission Deadline: 23 April 2004
::View COMS Website
Additional Reading & MEMS Industry Resources
Some additional reading that might be of interest to you in regard to Micralyne or the small tech industry is:
NanoApex.com - A great website for staying current with the latest news on nanotechnology and MEMS.
Danny Banks' Introduction to Microengineering - A valuable website for learning the basics on MEMS, Microsystems and MST.
COMS 2004 - COMS is the leading international conference on the commercialization of MEMS/MST/micromachining and nanotechnology.
Small Times - An online magazine that provides readers with daily news coverage of small tech around the world.
MEMS Industry Group - The MEMS Industry Group (MIG) is the premier trade association representing the North American MEMS and Microstructure industries.