Background

There is a need for microfluidics-based or microfluidics-enabled devices in life science applications (pharmaceutical, personalized medicine) and other areas such as environmental, analytical and agro-food. For instance, the costs of an ageing population and the associated increasing costs of healthcare could be controlled by introducing microfluidics based diagnostics devices; on the other hand, microfluidics will enable functionalities otherwise impossible, such as personal DNA sequencing.

Despite several commercial examples of the use of microfluidic technology, its use is not widespread so far. The main reason is a lack of maturity of the market and the technology, especially reflected by the limited availability of mature, cost effective microfluidic components and solutions.

This lack of maturity can be attributed to 2 main causes:

  • The lack of an organized industry in which MF manufacturers are mostly specialized in one of the predominant type of basic materials (glass, silicon and polymer) which limits the possibilities, both in terms of equipment and expertise, when integration of complex systems by combination of different devices is necessary.
  • The lack of standards (both on a device and on a process integration level), resulting in specific devices for specific applications. Indeed the MF-4 Microfluidic Consortium, a group of stakeholders in Microfluidics from across Europe and the USA investigating the state-of-the-art, recent applications and market dynamics recently, concluded that “general adoption of microfluidics will only be possible with an agreement on standardised interconnects between chips and systems.