Inventions Utilizing Microfluidics and Colloidal Particles

Several related inventions pertain to families of devices that utilize microfluidics and/or colloidal particles to obtain useful physical effects. The families of devices can be summarized as follows:

  • Microfluidic pumps and/or valves wherein colloidal-size particles driven by electrical, magnetic, or optical fields serve as the principal moving parts that propel and/or direct the affected flows.
  • Devices that are similar to the aforementioned pumps and/or valves except that they are used to manipulate light instead of fluids. The colloidal particles in these devices are substantially constrained to move in a plane and are driven to spatially order them into arrays that function, variously, as waveguides, filters, or switches for optical signals.
  • Devices wherein the ultra-laminar nature of microfluidic flows is exploited to effect separation, sorting, or filtering of colloidal particles or biological cells in suspension.
  • Devices wherein a combination of confinement and applied electrical and/or optical fields forces the colloidal particles to become arranged into three-dimensional crystal lattices. Control of the colloidal crystalline structures could be exploited to control diffraction of light.
  • Microfluidic devices, incorporating fluid waveguides, wherein switching of flows among different paths would be accompanied by switching of optical signals.

This work was done by David W. M. Marr, Tieying Gong, John Oakey, Alexander V. Terray, and David T. Wu of the Colorado School of Mines for Johnson Space Center. For more information, download the Technical Support Package (free white paper) at www.techbriefs.com/tsp under the Physical Sciences category.

In accordance with Public Law 96-517, the contractor has elected to retain title to this invention. Inquiries concerning rights for its commercial use should be addressed to:

Colorado School of Mines
Golden, CO 80401

Refer to MSC-24160-1/1-1/2-1/3-1, volume and number of this NASA Tech Briefs issue, and the page number.

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