Science on display: ‘Art-on-a-Chip’
Studying how tiny amounts of liquid move through precisely engineered soft plastic chips is an exciting new field for scientists, particularly when applied to molecular and cell biology. In a science-meets-art twist, University of Canterbury researchers are now also unlocking the aesthetic potential of microfluidics, turning petite research aides into micro masterpieces.
In a science-meets-art twist, UC Engineering researchers, Dr Rebecca Soffe and Associate Professor Volker Nock are unlocking the aesthetic potential of microfluidics, turning petite research aides into micro masterpieces.
Chips baked in this kitchen are next level, in terms of their research applications. “Currently I’m working on an insulin biosensor which uses microfluidics, and the development of a leaf-on-a-chip to investigate how leaves distribute nutrients to their surfaces,” she says.
“The same technology is being by applied by other members in the research group to study fungal plant pathogens and the effect of forces on cancer cells, for example.”
At first glance, it can be hard to grasp the inherent complexity of these design engineered chips that look like plain plastic rectangles or discs. Associate Professor Volker Nock, who is leading UC’s research in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering on the application of microfluidics to Lab-on-a-Chip devices, first started playing with colour in chips several years ago. He wanted to help inspire new students and also potentially create something tangible and beautiful that could be used for display purposes.
“I started using food dye colours that could flow through tiny channels in the chips to reveal a design, such as the University of Canterbury logo,” he says. “Students who have never seen the chips before find it quite fascinating, because they are usually expecting something electrical not a fluid-based technology.”