yuzhe-ericA team of UC Davis biomedical engineering students won third place at iCAN 2012, held in Beijing last month. The project title was “Non-contact Multiplexed Microfluidic Dot-Matrix  Printing.” Yuzhe Ding, a graduate student in Tingrui Pan’s lab, and senior Eric Huang converted an out-of-date dot-matrix printer head into a novel non-contact printing system . They modified the printer head with interchangeable microfluidic-ribbon devices and computer-controlled three-dimensional moving stage, which enable high-throughput, large-scale, arbitrary two-dimensional micropattern generation. Compared with conventional patterning techniques, the team’s method has several unique features, including crosstalk elimination, universal solvent adaptability, design flexibility, reprint reliability, arbitrary pattern generation, and extremely low cost.

To use the printer, liquid is injected into a microfluidic chip, and is drawn into the chip’s channels. The chip is placed in the printer, and a hydrogel film is prepared on a glass slide. When the printer is turned on, the chip guides the printing of a pattern of dots onto the hydrogel. So far, the team has used a protein or antibody solution in the microfluidic channels to do combinatorial chemical analysis. However, living cells could also be used.


The International Contest of Applications in Nano-Micro Technologies (iCAN) is an annual competition that draws student teams from more than 20 countries. This year, Yuzhe and Eric competed with 5,000 people to secure a spot among the final 100 teams in Beijing. Yuzhe says “It’s a chance to show our best work to the world, not just to our own lab.” This is the second year in a row that a team from UC Davis biomedical engineering has taken home a prize from iCAN.