Science 3 min read

The Portable "Lab on a Chip" That Costs Less than a Penny to Build

Nestor Rizhniak |

Nestor Rizhniak |

Stanford scientists have developed a new technology to manufacture multifunctional and reusable “labs on a chip.” Extremely low-cost, this chip will reduce the cost and time required for clinical diagnosis of many life-threatening diseases.

Most of the work associated with disease diagnosis takes place in a lab. This often requires expensive machines that are prone to malfunction. In developing countries where physicians combat epidemic outbreaks, the high-cost of diagnosis often leads to high incidence and bad patient outcomes.

#Stanford scientists created a #labonachip that can #diagnose for #penniesClick To Tweet

Lab on a Chip: A Laboratory That is as Cheap and Small as a Penny

A team of researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine developed a technology to manufacture a “lab on a chip” that can conduct tasks normally reserved for a full-size laboratory.

“Rahim Esfandyarpour helped to develop a way to create a diagnostic “lab on a chip” for just a penny.” | Zahra Koochak |

Straight out of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, the tiny lab can reveal the secrets of almost any sample. According to a paper on the technology, published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, it takes only 20 minutes and one cent to produce one Lab on a Chip, using an ordinary inkjet printer.

Here’s a fun fact: At a production cost of about $0.01 per unit, this lab is actually less expensive to produce than a penny. It cost $1.50 to produce a penny in 2016.

The Lab on a Chip is made possible with the combination of microfluidics, electronics, and inkjet printing technology.

The system consists of two parts:

  • a silicon microfluidic chamber to host cells and an electronic strip, and
  • a conventional inkjet printer to print the electronic strip onto a polyester sheet with a conductive nano ink that’s commercially available.

Instead of the fluorescent or magnetic cell labeling of conventional laboratory diagnostic processes, the lab-on-a-chip analyses different types of cells and isolates them based on their intrinsic electrical properties.

Nano-Diagnosis to end Cumbersome and Costly Diagnosis

In addition to being cheap and easy to produce, the portability of these penny-sized labs will facilitate the detection of infectious diseases in real-time, especially in poor areas in the world where access to laboratories is difficult. For perspective, a flow cytometer, which counts and sorts cells like the Lab on a Chip in conventional laboratories, can cost over $100,000.

Clinicians will have at their disposal a multifunctional and rapid micro-lab that can repeat experiments at very small scale, without the need for expensive, high-end equipment.

As we continue to transition into Industry 4.0 and connecting via the Internet of Things, existing infrastructures will be leveraged to produce more efficient results. The Lab on a Chip, by using ubiquitous materials like silicone and multi-use machines like an inkjet printer, does just that.

First AI Web Content Optimization Platform Just for Writers

Found this article interesting?

Let Zayan Guedim know how much you appreciate this article by clicking the heart icon and by sharing this article on social media.

Profile Image

Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

Comments (0)
Most Recent most recent
share Scroll to top

Link Copied Successfully

Sign in

Sign in to access your personalized homepage, follow authors and topics you love, and clap for stories that matter to you.

Sign in with Google Sign in with Facebook

By using our site you agree to our privacy policy.