Microfluidics or so called Lab-on-a-chip systems and to a large extent their analytical and bioanalytical applications have been an extensive field of research over the past two decades. Analytical applications of microfluidic systems have included detection of toxins, warfare agents and viruses, protein separation, DNA sequencing, and point-of-care devices to name but a few. In many instances, integration of (bio)chemical analyses onto microfluidic platforms has been inspired by existing, conventional techniques in the macro world and miniaturized, thanks to the advances in nano- and microfabrication, to lab-on-a-chip platforms. In contrast to this approach of downscaling existing analytical techniques, our major interest in microfluidics and its bioanalytical applications is to overcome current analytical challenges by developing analytical methods that can only be envisaged on the microchip platform.
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These are our current major interests:
Separations in Tailored Micro- and Nanoenvironments
We are interested in developingnovel separation mechanisms in tailored microenvironments and apply them to microfluidic separation and fractionation of biomolecules such as DNA, RNA and proteins. Specifically, we pioneer dielectrophoteretic phenomena of biomolecules in microfluidic devices.
Tools for Nanocrystallography
Structure elucidation of large protein complexes is still a considerable challenge, yet is a key factor in drug development and disease combat. Serial femtosecond X-ray crystallography (SFX) is an emerging technique with which structural information of proteins is obtained overcoming experimental limitations faced in traditional crystallography methods. We develop microfluidic tools to improve the emerging SFX technique through development of nanocrystal fractionation devices and platforms to study the conditions of nanocrystal growth.
Single Cell Analysis
Resolving heterogeneity within cell populations will allow investigation of a variety of biological processes and phenomena that would otherwise be averaged in huge cellular ensembles. We are assessing biomolecular information on the single cell level for applications in drug design and development, early disease diagnostics or tissue engineering. Our current interest focuses on the hyphenation of microfluidic single cell manipulation and stimulation with mass spectrometric detection (MALDI MS).
Microfluidic devices exhibit a high surface to volume ratio causing surface properties to play a key role in (bio)analytical applications. We develop strategies to treat microchannel surfaces for all our applications to reduce unwanted biofouling or aging and optimize performance.