U of T home to first molecular printer in Canada

Nov 02, 2006

Think of it as a miniscule dot-matrix printer that uses biological ink. Students and faculty at the University of Toronto’s Institute for Optical Sciences (IOS) will have access to the Nano eNabler, the first benchtop molecular printer in Canada, which will allow them to place microscopic dots of biological material onto surfaces with nanometer spatial precision.

In a six-month pilot project, Bioforce Nanoscience of Ames, Iowa has loaned the printer to the IOS, so that faculty and students can apply the technology in new research scenarios and experiments.

“This is a great example of how researchers and industry partners are working together,” says Karen Grant, managing director of the IOS. “The company benefits because we are writing application notes on how it’s used. We benefit because we can offer state-of-the-art equipment to our faculty, who can bring their students to come and work with it and experience it.”

The printer places dots on a variety of substrates by channeling a solution of biomolecules such as proteins, DNA, or antibodies from a reservoir onto a tape tip. The tape tip is then lowered with meticulous accuracy onto a surface to drop the dot.

Cynthia Goh, associate director of the institute, is a physical chemist who saw the potential the device could have for her research. Part of her work is in tissue engineering, where she requires the ability to immoblize biomolecules so she can study their material properties. Goh is also working on building micron-sized channels to control fluids at the microscale. The printer will allow her to innovate new designs quickly.

“Before, if I wanted to try out an arrangement of molecules, I’d have to build a whole mask, trace a design onto silicon, expose the silicon to light and then etch the channels. This takes time. It’s costly,” Goh explains. “But with this printer you don’t have to do complex microfabrication. You almost just type in the pattern you want.”

Venkat Venkataramanan, head of IOS scientific operations, says that though the Nano eNabler is designed to place biological dots, there could be many other applications in phototonics, semiconductors, or in microstructures used in optics. The company behind the printer hopes the institute, which brings together diverse faculty and students from chemistry, physics, materials science and electrical and computer engineering, will help find those new uses.

Given that the printer is just on loan, it is possible that demand for time with the equipment may exceed its availability. “We’re expecting to also have people from medical sciences, hospitals and other universities wanting to use it, because this is a one-of-a-kind instrument in Canada right now,” explains Venkataramanan. “But that’s OK. We’re here to make the device available.

“And we’ll see how it goes. If we’re making progress, they’ll let us keep it longer.”

Source: University of Toronto

Explore further: Scientists use nanoparticles to shut down mechanism that drives cancer growth

Related Stories

Solar Impulse 2 pilot becomes aviation legend

17 hours ago

At 62 years of age, Swiss Solar Impulse 2 pilot Andre Borschberg has made aviation history with a record breaking solo flight across the Pacific that he has called "an interior journey".

Facegloria: Facebook for Brazil's Evangelicals

18 hours ago

Fluffy clouds waft across a blue sky as you log in and while you chat with friends, Gospel music rings out: welcome to Facegloria, the social network for Brazilian Evangelicals.

Mexico City proposes regulations for Uber

18 hours ago

Mexico City is proposing regulations that would allow Uber and other smartphone-based ride-sharing apps to operate, while requiring drivers and cars to be registered, the city's Office of Legal and Legislative Studies said ...

Message-bearing coffee foam taps printer mechanics

Jun 28, 2015

If vendors could choose the key marketing rule of thumb for the past decade, you might learn they did it with two words, Personalize This. From sneakers to t-shirts to news feeds to music services, market ...

Recommended for you

A stretchy mesh heater for sore muscles

Jul 03, 2015

If you suffer from chronic muscle pain a doctor will likely recommend for you to apply heat to the injury. But how do you effectively wrap that heat around a joint? Korean Scientists at the Center for Nanoparticle ...

Polymer mold makes perfect silicon nanostructures

Jul 03, 2015

Using molds to shape things is as old as humanity. In the Bronze Age, the copper-tin alloy was melted and cast into weapons in ceramic molds. Today, injection and extrusion molding shape hot liquids into ...

Better memory with faster lasers

Jul 02, 2015

DVDs and Blu-ray disks contain so-called phase-change materials that morph from one atomic state to another after being struck with pulses of laser light, with data "recorded" in those two atomic states. ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.