For the performance of certain analytical and diagnostic tasks in modern Life Science applications high throughput screening (HTS) methods are essential. Miniaturization, parallelization and automation allow to decrease consumption of expensive materials and lead to faster analyzing times. The miniaturization of total assay volumes by the use of microtiter plates as well as the microarray technology have revolutionized the field of biotechnology and Life Sciences. Neither printing of microarrays with droplet volumes of several picoliters, nor handling of precious enzymes in the upper nanoliter range can be accomplished with traditional liquid handling devices like air displacement pipettes. The development of novel low volume liquid handling devices, which are subject to current research, addresses the diverse requirements shifting steadily to lower volumes. Various novel non-contact dispensing methods in the nanoliter and picoliter range are presented and classified according to their working principles like air displacement and direct displacement methods (TopSpot®, NanoJetTM, Dispensing Well PlateTM). Properties of the various methods are compared in terms of flexibility, integration density, speed of operation, precision, addressable volume range and amenability to multi-parallel operation.
By integrating processing steps of biological assays within these novel non-contact dispensing devices multifunctional Lab-on-a-chip (LOAC) devices can be developed. A prototype of such a flexible and modular application platform was developed. This platform enables to perform various processing steps (e.g. PCR, post-processing) in one chip with subsequent probe transfer into another chip with a different functionality (e.g. detection). This basically points into the direction to reach new functionalities by combining advantages of novel low volume liquid handling devices with LOAC functionality.
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The authors would like to thank Stefanie Reinbold for excellent technical assistance. Research is partially supported by grants from German Ministry of Science and Technology, BMBF, in the field of Nanobiotechnology within the project nanoMAP under contract number 0312001 D. The authors would also like to thank for the very close and effective cooperation with our microfluidics partner HSG-IMIT (Institut für Mikro- und Informationstechnik of the Hahn-Schickard Gesellschaft e.V.). Together with the HSG-IMIT, the CSEM and the University of Cranfield, we have established the ‘European Liquid Handling Competence Centre’ (LICOM) within the frame of Europractice of the European Commission IST-2001-34364.
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Daub, M., Kaack, R.M., Gutmann, O. et al. Microfluidics and Beyond–Devices for Applications in Biotechnology -. MRS Online Proceedings Library 820, 347–357 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1557/PROC-820-R6.6