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Smallest whirlpools can pack stunningly strong force

gical samples. Some envision that a credit card-sized device with a microscopic needle could be applied painlessly to the body to obtain a particular sample, such as blood, and then microfluidic systems embedded in the card could profile the biochemical composition of the minute sample. That could mean a sick person in a remote location could receive a diagnosis in hours rather than waiting for days or weeks for samples to be sent to laboratories.

Chiu notes that there are large, high-powered commercial and government centrifuges that can achieve acceleration of several hundred thousand Gs, some possibly even exceeding 1 million. Materials that most humans are familiar with would be altered significantly or destroyed if exposed to such forces.

But that might or might not hold true at microscopic scales, Chiu said.

"The force would feel very small to us because the mass is so small at this microscopic scale, even though the acceleration is very high," he said. "But if you had humans living at that microscale, to them I imagine the force would feel very large."


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Contact: Vince Stricherz
vinces@u.washington.edu
206-543-2580
University of Washington
3-Sep-2003


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