fabbrica_ad_elevate_prestazioniTitolo: Plastic Lab-on-chips for the optical manipUlation of Single-cells

Area: 1 – Fabbrica ad elevate prestazioni

Call topic: 1.2 – Tecnologie innovative per la realizzazione di componenti dalle caratteristiche funzionali avanzate

Coordinatore: IFN – Istituto di Fotonica e Nanotecnologie (Milano)


  • INO – Istituto Nazionale di Ottica (Pozzuoli (NA))
  • ITIA – Istituto di Tecnologie industriali e Automazione (Milano)

Gruppo di interesse industriale:

  • JULIGHT s.r.l. (Pavia)
  • KIRANA s.r.l. (Rovereto (TN))
  • Novatech s.r.l. (Napoli)
  • OPTSENSOR s.r.l (Roma)
  • Selex S.p.A. (Roma)

Abstract: Lab-on-chips (LoCs) are microsystems capable of manipulating small amounts of fluids in microfluidic channels. They have a huge application potential, from basic science to chemical synthesis and pointof- care medical analysis. Polymers are rapidly emerging as the material of choice for LoC production, due to the low substrate cost and ease of processing. Two breakthroughs that could promote LoC diffusion are: (i) a microfabrication technology with low-cost rapid prototyping capabilities; (ii) an integrated on-chip optical detection system.

In this project we propose the use of femtosecond lasers and microinjection moulding as a novel highly-flexible microfabrication platform for polymeric LOCs with integrated optical detection, for the realization of low-cost and truly portable biophotonic microsystems. In this project we target the relevant application of LoCs to non-invasive contactless mechanical phenotyping of single cancer cells.

plusIdeas and solutions:

The project PLUS aims at demonstrating a new manufacturing approach based on microinjection molding combined with femtosecond laser micromachining. This combination provides a powerful mix of mass-production and rapid-prototyping capabilities. In particular, we demonstrate the use of removable inserts, micromachined by femtosecond lasers in steel, for rapid modification and optimization of the mold in an injection molding machine, which is capable of high-volume and cost-effective production of plastic devices.

plus-1Femtosecond lasers can also be employed for welding the two slides composing a lab-on-chip (LoC) device. In particular, we target the relevant application of LoCs to non-invasive contactless mechanical phenotyping of single cells.

The unique integration of photonics and microfluidics, offered by the assembly of optical components in the biochips, will enable to implement a wealth of novel functionalities. In this project we concentrate on a polymeric LoC for mechanical phenotyping of single cells.


Cplus-3ell deformability is an emergent phenomenon in biological understanding of cell function and health and should be used as a sensitive inherent marker to monitor physiological or pathological changes.





Follow up:

The main technological outputs of the PLUS project are:

plus-4Adding rapid-prototyping capabilities to injection molding, using the removable insert approach together with femtosecond laser machining of the inserts.

Demonstrate the possibility to produce complex devices such as single-cell stretchers with a cost-effective approach.

The transversal research group that formed in this project can offer a high level and unique fabrication platform to develop and demonstrate novel lab-on-a-chip devices that, on the one hand has the necessary flexibility to optimize new layouts, but on the other hand, is well-rooted on mass replication techniques as microinjection molding. This will allow bridging the usual gap between academic implementations and the industrial production process that often prevented good ideas to be transferred to the market.

plus-5Future perspectives of this project will therefore be the participation of the CNR pool to European projects trying to collaborate with end-users of the lab-on-a-chip devices that are looking for partners capable of demonstrating the idea and developing a production process that can be compatible with standard industrial methods.

In addition to scientific projects, the results of this collaboration are also open to small-medium enterprises that do not have the capability or the flexibility to develop new lab-on-a-chip devices and may be interested to this new hybrid approach.

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