By: James Shomin

LEGOs Key for research at MIT

When picturing people playing with LEGO blocks, a research facility at the engineering school of MIT is probably not the first place your mind goes. However, that was exactly the case for two researchers looking for an easier way to conduct microfluidics operations.  The traditional method for developing microfluidic devices, referred to as a lab-on-a-chip design, uses a flat, two-dimensional chip that contains all the necessary components together. This is a daunting and time-consuming task for researchers that requires extreme attention to detail.

By tapping into their childhood, researchers were able to use small LEGO sets to house each component within an individual brick. By housing each component individually, researchers are able to conduct their experiments more efficiently. Now they can simply mix and match the various bricks into different combinations instead of constructing a new chip every time. At this time, the use of LEGOs in Microfluidic operations is limited because the thermoplastic material used to manufacture LEGOs is unable to withstand exposure to some chemicals. Researchers are experimenting with different coatings to increase the range of LEGO-based microfluidic operations.