Smartphones can forecast the weather, direct you to your next meeting, or entertain you during a long flight. But can they diagnose cancer?
Erickson’s team enabled PCR in the absence of reliable electricity by harnessing another resource that almost everybody has access to: the sun. The system they devised uses a movable lens and photomask to alternatively heat and cool the channels of a microfluidic device via solar power. The user simply points the assembly at the sun, raises or lowers the mask and chip to adjust for differences in light intensity and ambient temperature, and starts the reaction. As a sample travels from the center of the disk-shaped circuit to its periphery and back again, it passes through different temperature zones, creating the conditions for PCR.
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