TEMPE, Ariz. A team of researchers at Arizona State University has demonstrated the ability to move water molecules by light -- a phenomenon they believe could have widespread use in analytical chemistry and possibly pharmaceutical research. The discovery could have an important effect on the fledgling field of microfluidics, said Tony Garcia, an associate professor in the Harrington Department of Bioengineering.
The use of an ordinary beam of light to move water around without the need for potentially damaging electric fields, air bubbles (which can denature proteins), or moving microscopic mechanical pump parts (which are expensive to make and difficult to repair) could significantly aid development of microfluidic devices, which are themselves tiny, sophisticated devices that can analyze samples.
"This discovery can speed the development of microfluidic devices," Garcia said. "These devices could require only one drop of blood for a battery of 20 to 30 tests, with results provided in the time spent waiting to consult with the physician," Garcia explained. "They also could help pharmaceutical companies screen for a new drug by allowing for tests to be run on an extremely small scale and in simultaneous fashion."
The ASU researchers discovered an amplification effect of the surface change in water contact angles through nanotechnology. Details of their work will appear in a paper titled "Lotus Effect Amplifies Light-Induced Contact Angle Switching," in the Journal of Physical Chemistry. It is now available from the Journal's online ASAP service (go to http://pubs.acs.org/journals/jpcbfk/ and click on articles ASAP).
In addition to Garcia, the team includes Devens Gust, professor of chemistry and biochemistry; Tom Picraux, professor of chemical and materials engineering; Mark Hayes, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry; Rohit Rosario, a postdoctoral researcher
Contact: Skip Derra
Arizona State University