Paper Power

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Science  14 Mar 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6176, pp. 1179
DOI: 10.1126/science.343.6176.1179-b

Paper-based microfluidic devices offer much promise for instrument-free medical diagnostics that can perform complex analytical functions while being easy to manipulate and use. Such devices require miniaturized power sources that are compatible with the paper technology and can be disposed of with minimum environmental impact. Esquivel et al. explore the use of fuel cells for powering such devices. They have developed a microfluidic fuel cell that exploits the capillary flow in the paper test strip without requiring external pumps. Both the KOH electrolyte and the methanol fuel are stored within the paper strip; when water is added, the fuel cell starts to generate power. The proof-of-concept prototypes reported by the authors meet the power needs of commercially available rapid tests that are powered by button-cell batteries. Integrated with a lateral flow test, the fuel cells can use the sample under analysis (e.g., blood) to generate the power needed for the analysis itself (e.g., glucose levels in the blood). The test strips are similar in construction to the lateral flow strips used in medical diagnostics and should thus be comparatively easy to incorporate into the manufacturing process.

Energy Environ. Sci. 10.1039/C3EE44044C (2014).

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