(154c) Invited Talk 3: Creating New Separation Processes By Interfacing Engineered Cells with Non-Living Material Interfaces | AIChE

(154c) Invited Talk 3: Creating New Separation Processes By Interfacing Engineered Cells with Non-Living Material Interfaces


Ruder, W. - Presenter, University of Pittsburgh
Lake, J., University of Pittsburgh
Heyde, K., Carnegie Mellon University
The creation of new biological interfaces has been a critical step for scientific exploration in the field of synthetic biology, yet these tools can also be used to create new chemical engineering technology with industrial relevance. One key area of interest is the separation and detection of biological and chemical species of interest. The detection of these species is complicated by both their low abundance in bulk fluids of interest, as well as a lack of sensitive instrumentation to detect these species. Thus, extraction, separation and/or pre-concentration are critical steps for detection. Here, we discuss how the tools of biointerface engineering and microfluidics can be used in sensing and separation. One long-term goal is to integrate the separation/concentration step and the signal amplification step in biosensing into one automated system, and we will discuss technologies we have developed to that end. We have developed initial standalone technologies for each component of such a system. We have created simple, low-cost, and robust mesofluidic handling systems for feeding fluid to microfluidic lab-on-a-chip devices (1). Additionally, we have created programmable material surfaces for detecting analytes synthesized by cells (2, 3). We will discuss preliminary data that demonstrates that these programmable materials can be miniaturized to create programmable microparticles that are sensitive to specific chemical and biological analytes. By capturing these particles in an in vitro, cell-free expression system, we have created the key enabling technologies to perform separation, capture, amplification and detection of chemical and biological species in a single system that will be low-cost, lightweight, low-power, and will have a long shelf-life – all characteristics ideal for new separation processes.Our long-term vision is that by using mesofluidic liquid handling and sampling systems to repeatedly introduce samples to a microfluidic separator, we will be able to handle bulk fluid samples, while also addressing low analyte concentration by binding key analytes with microscale sensors that do not require large amounts of analyte. The tools that we will present are the first steps to enabling technology towards this mission. They illustrate an industrially relevant payoff followingly the initial, hypothesis-driven development of biological interfaces between engineered living cells and non-living material systems.


  1. J. R. Lake, Heyde, K.C., and Ruder, W.C., Low-Cost Feedback-Controlled Syringe Pressure Pumps for Microfluidics Applications. PLoS ONE, (2017).
  2. K. C. Heyde, F. Y. Scott, S.-H. Paek, R. Zhang, W. C. Ruder, Using Synthetic Biology to Engineer Living Cells That Interface with Programmable Materials. e55300 (2017).
  3. R. Zhang, K. C. Heyde, F. Y. Scott, S.-H. Paek, W. C. Ruder, Programming Surface Chemistry with Engineered Cells. ACS Synthetic Biology,(2016).