Throughout our iGEM experience, we have interacted with synthetic biologists, researchers, and companies in the microfluidic industry. Our team has found that there is a need for a system that increases the accessibility of microfluidic devices to the scientific community. While microfluidics is not new to biologists, many scientists have not incorporated it into their research workflow. This is due to a number of barriers that scientists must overcome in order to utilize microfluidics, one of which is a lack of accessibility.
Currently, the experimental outputs of experiments run on microfluidic chips are collected in a tube and manually transferred to other vessels, such as a well-plate for analysis in a plate reader. This, however, defeats the purpose of using microfluidics to automate biological protocols. In order to streamline the process of utilizing microfluidic devices for synthetic biology protocols, we have developed a system that automates the output of a microfluidic device. Our system, TERRA, takes the output of a microfluidic device and selectively dispenses the fluid to specific locations on a vessel, such as a 96-well plate. Scientists can then use the output of a microfluidic-based experiment more effectively. For instance, the microfluidic output can easily be analyzed using standard lab equipment, such as a plate reader. TERRA allows scientists to incorporate microfluidics to their workflow without an extensive knowledge of microfluidics itself.
TERRA aims to be an application- and microfluidic-agnostic system, in which a biologist can run a microfluidic device designed for their experiment, connect it with the TERRA Adapter, and enter the protocol for the experiment to our user interface. Our system will then automate the experiment and dispense the fluid output to the wells of the microtiter plate that the user inputted to the user interface. By automating the microfluidic-based experiment, our project combines the use of standard lab equipment for analysis of outputs of microfluidic devices. TERRA allows scientists to easily incorporate microfluidics to their experiments and easily access and utilize the outputs of microfluidic devices. By using TERRA, scientists can automate synthetic biology protocols, such as those for molecular cloning, that can be applied in creating BioBricks or similar experimental products.