Tuesday, August 4, 2009

New Toys, I mean Tools, at the NRC

It is not every day that I get to use the words “fun” and “work” in the same sentence, but every once in a while my regular duties at the NRC require that I be entertained. Last Friday I got to take one of the NRC’s latest instrument acquisitions, the MicroFab jetlab II, on a test drive. The jetlab II is a drop-on-demand microdispensing and printing platform which can be used for a wide variety of applications. Typical “inks” include liquid solder, adhesives, polymers, and biological materials (diagnostic reagents, proteins, and DNA). Ink jet dispensing is a non-contact printing process, so its accuracy is not affected by substrate wetting. In addition, the ability to free-fly droplets allows the fluid to be dispensed into and onto non-planar and complex structural features. The NRC staff had several days of training on this new tool, but I had not used it for a real application until printing trans-dermal drug delivery patches with Sonal Saluja of Mercer University. After establishing the proper jetting parameters to create the controlled flow of single 40 micron drops, we were able to use on-the-fly printing to create a 1 cm x 1 cm patch (10,000 individual spots) of a test solution on a rough polyethylene surface in less than 2 minutes. The ease of implementing this simple application was refreshing, and as the X, Y, and Z stages and piezoelectric dispensing device obeyed our every command, I was reminded that I am a “gadget guy” just like my dad.

The jetlab II is one of several new bionanotechnology tools in the Marcus Nanotechnology Building that are currently available to NRC users. Other tools include the Bioforce Nano eNabler , a dynamic contact angle goniometer (rame-hart model 250) for determining surface energies, and a Q-Sense quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation for measuring bulk-surface interactions. Additional equipment is being ordered and installed, and the NRC is committed to improving its capabilities with the acquisition of new equipment as funding and user interest permits. For more information about these tools or opportunities to use them, please contact me or John Pham.

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