/Electrical biomolecule separation with nanostructures

Electrical biomolecule separation with nanostructures

PhD - Leuven | More than two weeks ago

Develop innovative nanofluidics technology for future DNA sequencing and diagnostics

In the past decade, genomics has been taking a great leap toward precise and personalized medicine mainly thanks to the rapidly advancing DNA sequencing technology. However, the sample preparation of the genetic material is still a major technical bottleneck for daily and affordable next-gen sequencing. Current library preparation technologies involve many different steps and some -such as solid-phase extraction- has been demonstrated in microfluidics devices albeit requiring complex fluidic control. The focus of this PhD is to develop an electro-capturing method and device that can separate and enrich biomolecules in a microfluidic format.

The electrical properties of nucleic acids, such as charge or dielectric properties, allow them to be effectively manipulated directly by electric fields. Particularly the abundant negative charges allow fast electrophoretic migrations in an electric field. This property has been widely used in DNA gel electrophoresis, however, miniaturizing this principle in microfluidics is not straightforward because it demands highly ordered nanoporous structures in combination with an electric field. 

In this PhD project, we will employ the advanced lithography in imec to fabricate 2D or 3D nanoporous structures and incorporate them in microfluidic devices. We will exploit the capability of nanoporous structure in combination with electric fields for DNA/RNA isolation and separations. The student will start the research by establishing a multiphysics electro-fluidic model to describe DNA/RNA isolation & translocation through nanostructures and then generating optimal nanofluidic device designs according to the model. After device fabrication by the imec facility, the student will characterize the devices and validate DNA/RNA isolations & separations by lab measurements. This topic will be supervised and supported by a team of physicists, biochemists and engineers in the imec life sciences department.

Required background: Physics, electrical engineering, chemical engineering, biomedical engineering

Type of work: Modelling and data analysis: 40%, setup construction and device measurements: 50%

Supervisor: Liesbet Lagae

Daily advisor: Chengxun Liu

The reference code for this position is 2022-094. Mention this reference code on your application form.