Device and Method for Microscale Chemical Reactions

Tech ID: 30291 / UC Case 2017-380-0


UCLA researchers in the Departments of Bioengineering and Molecular and Medical Pharmacology have developed a passive microfluidic reactor chip with a simplified design that is less costly than existing microfluidic chips.


Although positron emission topography (PET) imaging is playing an increasingly important role in the research and clinical management of diseases, access to the radioactive tracers required for such imaging is limited due to the tracers’ short half-lives and high cost of production. Digital microfluidic chip technology has been used to miniaturize various assays and synthesis processes and reduce associated costs, including the synthesis of radiopharmaceuticals.For instance, initial research has been conducted on the synthesis of radioactive tracers using a type of digital microfluidic chip known as an electrowetting-on-dielectric (EWOD) chip. Though this platform enabled the demonstration of many important advantages of miniaturized radiosynthesizers, this chip has not yet been widely adopted, in large part due to its complexity and the high cost of prototype chips.


UCLA researchers in the Departments of Bioengineering and Molecular and Medical Pharmacology have developed a simplified EWOD digital microfluidic reactor chip with passive, rather than electrical, droplet manipulation. This passive manipulation, when combined with a temperature control mechanism, allows for a simplified chip on which it is possible to perform all of the unit operations needed for multistep radiochemical reactions.The simplified chip is also less costly and more reliable than existing microfluidic chips.Applications of the new EWOD chip range from the synthesis of radioactive tracers to the production of radiolabeled therapeutic molecules.


  • Production of radioactive tracers for PET imaging 
  • Production of agents for single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) imaging 
  • Production of radiolabeled peptides and proteins 
  • Production of radiolabeled therapeutic molecules 
  • Performing reactions at small scale to minimize reagent consumption/cost


  • Reduced cost of reagents 
  • Reliable performance 
  • Easily operable with a simplified design 
  • Chips have a low cost and are disposable 

State Of Development

Synthesis of many different radiopharmaceuticals has already been demonstrated.

Related Materials

  • Jia Wang, Philip H. Chao, Sebastian Hanet, R. Michael van Dam. Performing multi-step chemical reactions in microliter-sized droplets by leveraging a simple passive transport mechanism. Lab Chip 17: 4342 – 4355, 2017.
  • Keng, Pei Yuin, and R. Michael van Dam. "Digital microfluidics: a new paradigm for radiochemistry." Molecular imaging 14.12 (2015): 7290-2015.
  • Chen, Supin, et al. "Radiolabeling diverse positron emission tomography (PET) tracers using a single digital microfluidic reactor chip." Lab on a Chip 14.5 (2014): 902-910.

Patent Status

Country Type Number Dated Case
Germany Issued Patent 602017035439.2 03/24/2021 2017-380
France Issued Patent 3523047 03/24/2021 2017-380
United Kingdom Issued Patent 3523047 03/24/2021 2017-380
United States Of America Published Application 20200179927 06/11/2020 2017-380


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  • Van Dam, Robert M.

Other Information


digital microfluidic radio synthesizer; digital microfluidics; droplet microfluidics; droplet synthesis; droplet reaction; radiochemistry; radiosynthesizer; radiopharmaceuticals; PET imaging; radioactive tracers; radiolabeling

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