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BYU research team's microchip traps virus molecules

In just a few minutes, with microscopic glass tubes and a nanoliter of liquid, a team of BYU researchers can track down even the most elusive virus molecules.

The team of professors and students has created a tiny silicon microchip that traps molecules based on size, not quantity.

"The underlying goal is to try to apply ideas from micro-electronics to health," said Aaron Hawkins, a professor of electrical and computer engineering who is heading up the multi-disciplinary project. "The hope for lots of these 'lab on a chip ideas' is that in the future you'll see (them) in doctor's offices so the diagnosis can happen in minutes."

The technology would also allow researchers in the field to instantly identify a disease outbreak without waiting for time-consuming lab results, Hawkins said.

This "lab on a chip" technology already exists to map genomes, separate cells, evaluate cancer and diagnose blood samples, Hawkins said. But the team's goal is to make molecule identification easier and more accessible.

The team's progress is being published in "Lab on a Chip," a scientific journal that discusses microfluidic and nanofluidic technologies for chemistry, physics, biology and bioengineering. Other co-authors are Jie Xuan, Daniel Maynes, H. Dennis Tolley, Adam Woolley and Milton Lee.

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