Bio MEMS (Microelectro Mechanical Systems)
Dr. Moses Noh, Principal Investigator
The Noh Lab
Photolithography a material process by which a polymer( photoresist) is designed to match a predetermined pattern. Many times, these patterns are used as a "rubber stamp" onto a soft material, a process known as "soft lithography". The researcher now has a negative image of the design: channels into which fluid can be introduced and studied on the micro or nano scale.
Photolithography is also employed create solid structures on the microscale. This alternative protocol creates a raised design (relative to the substrate) as opposed to the recessed design of the microchannels. This "raised" technique is useful in fabricating structures which may only be tens of microns in dimension. Due to their size, these fabrications can be used by medicine in a fairly noninvasive manner.
Although the lab is in the College of Engineering, many of the lab's efforts are directed towards biological applications. A specific example is the attempt to ameliorate the hydrocephalus condition. Individuals affected by this condition are unable to efficiently drain cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from the brain. The fluid bathes the brain and spinal cord to reduce potential mechanical trauma as well as act as a conduit for delivery of materials vital for neurological health. CSF also is integrated into the ventricles of the brain and additional brain tissues. Under normal conditions this fluid is not static; it is circulated and reabsorbed by the central nervous system where it is distributed to venous circulation. Hydrocephalus is characterized by the inefficient absorption of the CSF, resulting in a net cranial pressure, neuropathology, and insult to the cerebral circulatory system.
Through the use of microfabriation and photolithography, my research has been focused on developing protocols which will applied to the manufacture of microdevices which can be implanted in individuals affected with hydrocephalus. This device, a "check valve", will divert excessive CSF from brain tissue (subarachnoid space) to the appropriate tissues within the central nervous system where it is to be reabsorbed.
It warrants attention that similar devices currently exist; however, these devices are much larger and are more cumbersome than the system proposed. With hope, the goal of the project will not only develop a novel photolithographic technique, but also increase the quality of life for thousands of individuals.