Collaborate. Microfluidic engineering labs and even commercial companies often look for academics to "cross-validate" their work, notes Robert Freedman, CEO of HμREL Corporation, which is working on a prototype for cellular experiments. Comb the literature and ask around to find who is working on something your lab might need. Also, check out the MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems) and Nanotechnology Exchange ( This nonprofit corporation connects users with consulting, design, and fabrication services of microelectromechanical systems such as microfluidics.

Check for off-the-shelf parts. You may not need to build everything from scratch. Several companies offer microfluidic chips and components, as well as complete kits with sets of components that can be tailored to different projects. Two examples: Micronit ( and Micralyne ( Academic foundries, too, offer what the Stanford Microfluids Foundary (...

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