Light-controlled Contamination-free Fluidic Processor

Principal Investigator: Professor Liqiu WANG (Department of Mechanical Engineering)

This project is showcased in the inaugural exhibition – Engineering for Better Living in Innovation Wing Two

Project information


The fluidic processor resembles a “magic” optical hand that can navigate, fuse, pinch, and cleave fluids in lossfree manner. Fluid placed on the device beads up like a marble and readily rolls without residue. By illuminating laser on the platform, a wavy force field is generated, acting as an invisible hand to touch and manipulate fluid.

Novelty of the Project

Contamination-free: Fluid loss with the processor is only 0.5% of that of the available technology. We consumed US$20 billion of plastics annually to handle fluids because of inter—sample contamination caused by fluids retention. The fluidic processor can potentially replace disposable plastics and ease environmental strain.

A wide spectrum of fluids: The new processor is compatible with nearly all liquids in biomedical and chemical industry. Its maneuverable fluid volume can be from 1000 µl to tiny droplets at 0.001 µl, i.e. about 0.02% of the volume of blood in a mosquito bite, which is 100 times smaller than that manipulated by its electrical counterpart.

Toward commercial products: The key technology of the device is a three-layer photo-responsive platform, costing only about US$50. With a thickness of only 1mm, it is portable and easy to handle.

Benefit to the Community

Similar to a scenario in fantasy films where wizards levitate and move object around by raising their wands. The device levitates a wide range of fluids, including water, oil, and alcohol, atop nanostructures and uses light as wand to move or split fluids without physical touch. Such loss-free, remote and contactless fluid processing is highly valuable for curbing our addiction for disposable plastics and upgrading personal safety in facing testing of infectious viruses and bacteria.

About the Scholar

Professor Wang is currently the Chair Professor of Thermal-Fluid Sciences and Engineering in Mechanical Engineering. His research interests include droplet microfluidics & materials, early diagnosis and prevention of infectious diseases.

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Achievement of the Project

The new technology has been published in Science Advances in an article titled “Photopyroelectric Microfluidics”, co-authored by Dr Wei Li, Dr Xin Tang and Chair Professor Liqiu Wang. It has been filed as US patent and received a GOLD award in the Geneva Inventions 2021.

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