MIT uses Lego to prototype low-cost micro pumps

Gadgets


Lego bricks (or, if you’re not a pedant, Legos) are highly precise and highly consistent plastic objects. Anywhere you go in the world the Lego is the same. That means that scientists at MIT can use these little sole stabbers to create very precise scientific systems.

Their first tests involve creating a microfluid pump and sorter using basic Lego parts. Because they can trust Lego bricks to be consistent around the world, they can easily create complex microfluidics kits that can be assembled almost anywhere.

“You could then build a microfluidic system similarly to how you would build a LEGO castle — brick by brick,” said lead author Crystal Owens, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. “We hope in the future, others might use LEGO bricks to make a kit of microfluidic tools.”

The project does require a little modification to the bricks including running fine channels through them. However, because each brick and panel is so precise you don’t need much more than a drill and some tubing to prototype a working microfluidics lab. Think of it as 3D printing with toys.

“Over the years, I’ve had peripheral exposure to the field of microfluidics and the fact that prototyping microfluidic devices is often a difficult, time-consuming, resource-intensive process,” said Anastasios John Hart, associate professor at MIT.


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