Integration of multifunctional materials for biodetection in microfluidic platforms

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BCMaterials micro- and nanodevices group, located at the UPV/EHU Science Park in Leioa, in collaboration with the Microfluidics Cluster UPV/EHU of the University of the Basque Country, based in Vitoria-Gasteiz, are seeking to fund a PhD program in microfluidic point of care devices, starting in September 2020.

Microfluidics enables the control and management of very small liquid volumes, typically in the nanolitre to the microliter range, through micron-sized channels and structures. This is ideally suited for the analysis of biological samples, where sample volumes are strictly limited for reasons of safety and patient comfort. Thus, point-of-care analytical devices seek to achieve high sensitivities and rapid response times, and to meet high-reliability standards.

Materials and manufacturing are essential aspects of this PhD project, which aims to develop new microfluidic platforms relying on multifunctional and responsive materials to integrate new functionalities while simplifying their design and construction, as well as the instrumentation needs. Bioanalytical devices are inherently two-part systems. They combine a reactive, disposable part, where the sample is processed, and the detection reaction takes place, and either a portable or benchtop equipment, which actuates on the disposable part, acquires and processes the detectors’ signal and transforms it into manageable data. The disposable part needs to be extremely cost-effective for these systems to make commercial sense. However, the complexity and relatively high cost of these systems have been a limiting factor until now. This PhD program addresses these long-standing issues and will take innovative approaches to the production of new devices, so that they are both costeffective and robust. We will develop components and systems able to perform multiparametric detection of different biomarkers of interest in health, sports and work safety, using both optical and electrochemical techniques. Moreover, eco-design principles will guide materials selection to ensure alignment with the circular economy concept and the emerging environmental EU regulations.

Throughout this project, the successful candidate will study the behaviour of different multifunctional materials at the micro-scale, and will design and develop microfluidic detection systems using a number of design and manufacturing techniques, including rapid prototyping and clean room photolithographic processes.

This research area is strongly interdisciplinary and finds application across all scientific areas. Besides, these technologies have the potential to develop very high-value new commercial products that can reach and transform society.