(6gd) Rational Way of Designing Microfluidic Devices for Energy and Bioengineering Applications

Authors: 
Maddala, J., SYSENG, LLC

My research interests are in developing novel microfluidic platforms that aid in solving the current challenges in energy and health industry. During my PhD, I  worked on developing models based on physics and graph theory for droplet microfluidic systems. I also worked on developing technology that helps in designing microfluidic devices based on applications. The projects proposed here are an outgrowth of my research that I performed during my PhD and as co-founder at SysEng LLC.

Microfluidic technology has shown great promise in providing novel solutions for biochemical analysis. The greatest impact of microfluidic technology would be in developing robust lab-on-chip devices with varied capabilities - e.g., producing perfectly controlled emulsions, point-of-care diagnostics and rapid screening of cells. While the promise is exciting, at present the functionalities of these devices focus on basic tasks- such as droplet production, storing, merging and sorting -but not on a complete design solution. There is a need to develop modeling and designing tools to rationally develop microfluidic devices that have multiple functionalities with flexibility and robustness. These tools will enable microfluidic technology to transition to practice and result in an impact similar to what was witnessed in the silicon revolution. Students working in this area should be trained in interdisciplinary fields consisting of biochemical analysis, optimization, process control and fluid mechanics to conceptualize and build designs that are commercially viable. I got an NSF STTR grant funded for this technology. Therefore, I plan to work on both fundamental research and also on applied engineering that impacts society in  immediate future.

Microfluidic systems are also used by nature for optimal transport of fluids. So, I envision that my research on microfluidics will not only help in developing lab-on-chip devices for biochemical analysis but more broadly could help in understanding natural systems. This would translate to bio-mimicry and bio-robotics; I present some of my initial interests in these areas.  These projects present my long-term  research interests  that will allow my group to use its knowledge of microfluidics and systems engineering to make valuable contributions to health and energy needs of the world.