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A tiny pump promises big time performance

C.J. Zhong hopes that within the next three to five years diabetics the world could see their quality of life enhanced by his tiny invention-a chip-sized pump with no moving parts. The device is also expected to find its way into myriad industrial and environmental applications, where it could mean huge savings in manufacturing and monitoring processes.

Zhong's patent on the low-power, electrically driven pumping device is one of the reasons the State University of New York has broken into the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's list of the top 10 patent-producing U.S. universities, jumping to 8th in 2002 from 17th in 2001.

Zhong was among four Binghamton researchers honored last week by State University of New York Chancellor Robert L. King for their contribution to the advancement of humanity through groundbreaking research. Zhong was recognized with a First Patent Award for his device. (See related story.)

An assistant professor of chemistry at Binghamton since 1998, Zhong refers to the invention as a "pumpless pump" because it lacks mechanical parts. The pumping device is the size of a computer chip and could be fabricated at a scale comparable to an adult's fingernail. The device comprises a detector, a column filled with moving liquid, and an injector. The pumping action is achieved when a wire sends an electrical voltage to two immiscible fluids in a tiny column, perhaps as small as the diameter of a hair. Applying opposite charges to each side of the column causes the fluids to oscillate, thereby simulating the action of a pump. In some ways, the tiny system works like a thermostat: it takes a small sample, analyzes it, and tells other components how to act in response.

Zhong's device has significant potential in the treatment of diabetes because it is small enough to be inserted into and remain in the body where it would conduct microfluidic analysis, constantly measuring the need for insulin and, then, delivering precise amo
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Contact: Susan Barker
sbarker@binghamton.edu
607-777-2640
Binghamton University
11-Jun-2003


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