The incredible shrinking lab

The collection, preparation, and analysis of chemical compounds using miniaturized devices are appealing for many reasons: the use of smaller reagent volumes can reduce the time needed to synthesize and analyze a product, the amount of chemical waste produced and the overall costs can be reduced by performing chemical reactions in these ‘lab-on-a-chip’ devices, and compact devices also allow samples to be analyzed at the point of need rather than at a centralized laboratory. For these reasons, chemists are now using these devices to create new molecules and materials, and biologists are employing these devices to study complex biological problems. Furthermore, labs on chips offer ‘point-of-care’ diagnostic abilities that could revolutionize medicine.

To highlight our interest in this exciting field, the July 27th issue of Nature contains an Insight (a collection of topical articles and reviews) which discuss the history, design, current applications, and the promising future of these ‘lab-on-a-chip’ devices:

The origins and the future of microfluidics (Whitesides)

Scaling and the design of miniaturized chemical-analysis systems (Janasek et al.)

Developing optofluidic technology through the fusion of microfluidics and optics (Psaltis et al.)

Future lab-on-a-chip technologies for interrogating individual molecules (Craighead)

Control and detection of chemical reactions in microfluidic systems (deMello)

Cells on chips (El-Ali et al.)

Microfluidic diagnostic technologies for global public health (Yager et al.)

There’s also a news story from Jenny Hogan on microreactors. (And you may want to check out ’Clicks and chips’ and Haswell’s recent News & Views article on Belder et al.)

For a complete list of Insights, click here – we hope you enjoy these reviews!


Joshua Finkelstein (Associate Editor, Nature)