Research to Business

Asked: Interview with the nominees of the NEULAND Innovation Contest

Due to the current situation, the award ceremony of the NEULAND Innovation Contest 2020 could unfortunately not take place so far. In order to bridge the waiting period until the award ceremony, we have asked the nominees for an interview about their idea. We will publish the interesting short interviews bit by bit in the coming weeks*. The first one is Philipp Marthaler from the Institute for Thermal Energy Technology and Safety (ITES). He is working on the freely programmable Lab-on-a-Chip STOKES2.

* The order in which the short interviews are published is not an indication of placement in the contest.

Example of programmed flow paths in a liquid film. The illustration shows the liquid (center) between two substrate plates through which the excitation and control takes place. (Image: Philipp Marthaler / KIT)
Example of programmed flow paths in a liquid film. The illustration shows the liquid (center) between two substrate plates through which the excitation and control takes place. (Image: Philipp Marthaler / KIT)

What do you want to achieve or improve with your technology?

Philipp Marthaler: Our concept represents a platform technology. First, we had a technical idea how to move a liquid on a chip surface without channels. This allows liquids to be freely transported or mixed on a 1 mm x 1 mm chip surface and everything that happens on a large scale in the laboratory can be performed at the micro level. The decisive improvement consists of the further development of an existing flow actuator and its optimization so that high speeds can be reached efficiently.

In application, I see the platform as an interface between chemical and digital information. Chemical information, i.e. DNA, hormones or matter, is often found in liquid solution and is therefore easy to process for the chip. The idea is to convert them into information that can be digitally processed and read by a computer.

As a concrete application we have for example developed a food check, that is portable and can recognize and process the ingredients of food and transmit them as traceable data to the user's cell phone. Other possible applications are wearables, Internet of Things and medicine: similar methods are already being used here to test drugs and currently also vaccines, for example.

Philipp Marthaler (Picture:  Karsten Litfin / KIT)
Philipp Marthaler has developed STOKES2 and is nominated with the technology in the NEULAND 2020 innovation contest. (Image: Karsten Litfin / KIT)

What motivated you to take part in the NEULAND Innovation Contest?

Philipp Marthaler: We have developed a good concept for the technology of STOKES 2 and its various fields of application. Our idea was to present the concept to a jury and take the opportunity to have experts assess the level of innovation as well as the inventiveness and competitiveness. The Innovation Contest also gives us the opportunity to find partners who would like to continue working with us on the idea.

Who benefits from your idea?

Philipp Marthaler: There is no limit to potential users: anyone who wants to use the platform can do so. We provide the platform for developing apps, i.e. applications such as the food tester. Customers who want to use our platform order and individualize it according to their application purposes.

What is the current status of your technology development - what has changed since the submission?

Philipp Marthaler: We have optimized the actuator to build a prototype. It was mainly a matter of scaling, since the prototype is not built exactly like the final product. While other groups have experimentally investigated basic phenomena used by our technology, we have theoretically determined the optimal parameters for our prototype. The manufacturing process is exactly the same as the production of a computer chip. The larger the number of chips produced, the cheaper the production can be.

What are the next steps in development?

Philipp Marthaler: The next important step is to produce a prototype to verify experimentally what we have shown numerically. This will allow us to improve the concept and the simulation and find fields of application and cooperation partners. We also want to create a user interface to make it more user-friendly.

The interview was conducted by Marie Simon

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Bilder v.o.n.u:Philipp Marthaler / KITKarsten Litfin / KIT

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