Reducing the dimensions of flow channels, chemical reactors and separation units can offer advantages for many different chemical processes and analytical techniques. For example, Michigan chemical engineers are developing and using microfabricated devices to better understand the circulation of cancer cells, to do high-throughput synthesis, to put a chemical lab on a microchip and to design better ways to deliver drugs to targeted areas in the body.
The Baker lab studies how structure and mechanics of the cellular microenvironment guide fundamental cell processes such as migration, proliferation, and extracellular matrix synthesis. To do so, we use microfabrication technologies to create synthetic biomaterials that mimic the 3D, fibrous nature of stromal or interstitial tissues. Combined with molecular tools, live imaging, microfabrication/fluidic techniques, and multi-scale mechanical characterization, these materials allow us to model, study, and control the interactions between cells and their surroundings. Ultimately, we aim to 1) shed insight into extracellular matrix-mediated diseases such as cancer and fibrosis and 2) use material cues to direct cell function for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine applications.
Professor Mark Burns and his group develop lab-on-a-chip devices for genetic analysis, blood tests, and diagnosing influenza and bacterial infections. The group’s studies in microfluidic systems include the development of modular systems, controlling flow with sound, and controlling pressure through temperature.
Professor Lola Eniola-Adefso and her group develop microfabricated systems to model blood vessels for evaluating the performance of vascular-targeted drug carriers in physiological blood flows.
During the past decade, Professor Erdogan Gulari and his group have developed new microfluidic systems and new chemistries to synthesize in a massively parallel fashion oligonucleotides or short genes and peptides on chips. These have led to the formation of several start-up companies in related areas. Currently, the expertise developed in DNA synthesis is being used for making synthetic gene libraries and peptide libraries for sequencing, gene expression analysis, epitope arrays and discovery of new antimicrobial peptides for use as coatings, preservatives and candidates for new drugs.
Professor Mark Kushner and his group develop computer-aided design tools that help semiconductor companies manufacture microelectronics better.
Professor Sunitha Nagrath’s research focus is the development of advanced MEMS tools for understanding cell trafficking in cancer through isolation, characterization and study of circulating cell in peripheral blood of cancer patients. Her group works on isolating and studying rare cells from cancer patients. These studies will progress to the design and development of smart chips that use microfluidics and nanotechnology to make an impact in medicine and life sciences.
Professor Joerg Lahann’s research interest is focused on the development of active, multi-functional bio-interfaces, which are applicable to a range of biomedical applications. His group’s recent advances in the molecular design of active nanostructures include the introduction of reactive coatings, reversibly switching surfaces and anisotropic nanoparticles that support the vision of smart interfaces and act as templates in time-controlled surface interactions.
Arming nano-electronics with mobility extends artificial systems into traditionally inaccessible environments. Quantum-confined nanoparticles (0D), carbon nanotubes (1D), graphene (2D) and other crystalline materials with well-defined lattice structures can be incorporated into polymer microparticles (i.e., colloidal electronics), granting them unique electronic functions. The Liu laboratory seeks to advance device capabilities for individual colloidal electronic particles, and explores higher-order assemblies of these building-blocks into hierarchical colloidal electronic matter. This research program, positioned at the intersection between materials design, chemical catalysis, and electronic device fabrication, aims to address one central challenge: Can we build materials the way nature builds us?
Professor Timothy Scott and his group are developing ways to use free radicals for the microfabrication of polymer-based devices, which may be useful in medicine or energy capture and storage.