PhD Thesis Proposal: Yuan Nie

Monday, January 21, 2019, 10:30am

Rm. 201 (Rett's Room), MacLean ESC

"Integrated Microfluidic Systems for Nanomaterial Synthesis, Biosensing and Cell Analysis"


Microfluidics is the science and technology of systems that study and exploit the behavior of fluids confined to small volumes ranging from 10-9 to 10-18 liters. Microfluidic systems have been developed for assorted applications owing to benefits of size effect in microfluidics. The direct advantage of scaling down in dimensions is the high surface-to-volume ratio, which provides rapid heat and mass transfer in microfluidic systems. Microscale channels also bring predictable laminar flows, which are favorable for controllable synthesis of nanomaterials. The smaller systems lessen material consumption and lower costs, which is especially important for screening processes involving expensive materials such as antibodies and therapeutics. When operated in parallel, microfluidic systems enable extremely high-throughput processing while preserving the unique properties of every single unit. With all the advantages, microfluidic systems outperform conventional beaker-based reactors towards nanomaterial synthesis. However, most of the developed microfluidic reactors encounter limitations in terms of increased design complexity and complicated processing steps. Both challenges and opportunities remain in the rational design of microfluidic systems. Moreover, the integration of material synthesis and subsequent applications by microfluidic systems has not been well explored.

In this proposal, underlying principles of microfluidic systems will be investigated to develop integrated platforms that can enable synthesis and patterning of nanomaterials, on-chip detection of biomolecules, and microfluidic cell culture and analysis. Microfluidic reactors will be carefully designed to produce mesoporous silica nanoparticles with controlled size, shape, and function, which will be exploited to facilitate small molecules loading and releasing for controlled drug delivery, to investigate cell-particle interactions for imaging, and to act as a matrix for microfluidic cell culture and analysis. On-chip patterning of silver nanoparticles will also be studied to expand the integration capability of the microfluidic systems. The patterned microchannel surfaces can serve as active plasmonic substrates for label-free detection of biomolecules. The proposed microfluidic systems will significantly promote the integration of lab-on-chip synthesis, bio-detection, and cell analysis.

Thesis Committee

For more information, contact Daryl Laware at