Piezo Ceramics Enable Precise Liquid Handling for in Vitro Diagnostics

In vitro diagnostics (IVD) opens up numerous possibilities to diagnose and detect diseases and other conditions at an early stage. Tests are performed using samples of blood, saliva, urine or tissue that have been taken from the body of humans or animals.

In the fight against virus pandemics like the one we are experiencing at the moment with Covid-19, IVD testing is becoming increasingly important: fast, easy and widely accessible testing methods open up the possibility to adapt therapeutic interventions in terms of personalized medicine to help cure, treat, and prevent diseases.

What Methods of IVD Testing Are There?

Some IVD tests are designed to be used in laboratory settings while portable point-of-care devices can be used just about anywhere. Various analytical methods in the “Omics” such as whole-genome sequencing and PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction), but also molecular diagnostics tests like ELISA (Enzyme-linked Immunosorbent Assay) can be used for this purpose. Other techniques including cytometry, cell isolation, cell-line engineering, the printing of microarrays and lab-on-a-chip systems also emerge in the context of IVD methods.

Not an Easy Task: Liquid Handling for IVD

The requirements of fluid handling in IVD devices are extremely demanding: very small volumes of liquids with different characteristics have to be dosed or moved with high precision. The technology used must be able to implement shock-free dosing, fast mixing or separation of fluids and particles as well as the generation of perfect droplets, taking into account the viscosity and surface tension of the media and the dosing speed. Mixing or sorting tasks are often executed without contact to avoid contamination of the samples.

The actuators used for nanoliter or picoliter liquid handling devices must work at high operating frequencies of up to several kHz while at the same time producing the kinetic energy required to generate small fluid flows or tiny droplets. Piezoelectric components and actuators are suitable products for these challenging demands: the piezoelectric effect is based on the generation of charges through the application of force by a crystal and vice versa, therefore piezo components work with instantaneous displacement by admitting a voltage. These components mostly operate with low power consumption suitable for battery-driven devices and exhibit durability as well as reliability, making them suitable to be employed in point-of-care applications as well as large lab automation devices.

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