Imagine several hazmat suit–clad figures in a room monitoring what appear to be stacks of computer servers connected by a web of tubing. A colorless liquid begins to flow out of the final tube and into a storage container. One individual in the room turns and nods to the observation window, confirming the successful resumption of Syria’s chemical weapons program.
Or, picture elsewhere a cohort of U.S. Marines, who just received artillery fire near a village. The warfighters and several local individuals see and smell gas. A small swarm of drones deploys to collect air samples as the Marines simultaneously sample their blood on tiny disposable papers that resemble computer chips to test for exposure to a toxic chemical. The drones quickly relay to the warfighters that sulfur mustard agent was released in the area.
As these hypothetical but plausible stories illustrate, actors good and bad might soon take advantage of microfluidics technology to produce or defend against chemical weapons. This technology has significant implications.
1. George M. Whitesides, “The origins and future of microfluidics,” Nature 442 (2006), 368.
2. Douglas P. Holmes, “Confined Fluid Flow: Microfluidics and Capillarity,” Boston University (2015).
3. Katherine S. Elvira, Xavier Casadevall i Solvas, Robert C. R. Wootton, and Andrew J. deMello, “The Past, Present, and Potential for Microfluidic Reactor Technology in Chemical Synthesis,” Nature Chemistry 5 (2013), 905–906.
4. Volker Hessel, Christoph Knobloch, and Holger Löwe, “Review on Patents in Microreactor and Micro Process Engineering,” Recent Patents in Chemical Engineering 1:1 (2008), 1–14. Cited in: Amy E. Smithson, “Chemical Micro Process Devices,” Innovation, Dual Use, and Security: Managing the Risks of Emerging Biological and Chemical Technologies (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2012), 237.
5. Microfluidics: A Global Market Overview, (Hyderabad, India: Industry Experts, April 2018), 1–5.
6. “List of Microfluidics, Lab-on-a-Chip, and BioMEMS Companies,” FluidicMEMS (6 February 2016); “Global Demand for Microfluidics Markets is Set to Reach US$4.2 Billion in 2018,” Industry Experts Incorporated, 20 April 2018.
7. Kentaro Yamada, Terence G. Henares, Koji Suzuki, and Daniel Citterio, “Paper-Based Inkjet-Printed Microfluidic Analytical Devices,” Angewandte Chemie International Edition 54:18 (13 April 2015); Hitoshi Asano and Yukihide Shiraishi, “Development of Paper-Based Microfluidic Analytical Device for Iron Assay Using Photomask Printed with 3D Printer for Fabrication of Hydrophilic and Hydrophobic Zones on Paper by Photolithography,” Analytica Chimica Acta 883 (9 July 2015), 55–60; Emanuel Carrilho, Andres W. Martinez, and George M. Whitesides, “Understanding Wax Printing: A Simple Micropatterning Process for Paper-Based Microfluidics,” Analytical Chemistry 81:16 (15 July 2009), 7091–7095.
8. “Technologies as More Sustainable Alternatives to Batch Processing,” Chemical Innovation: Technologies to Make Processes and Products More Sustainable, GAO-18-307, United States Government Accountability Office: Center for Science, Technology, and Engineering (February 2018), 72.
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10. Robert B. Channon, Maxim B. Joseph, and Julie V. Macpherson, “Additive Manufacturing for Electrochemical (Micro)Fluidic Platforms,” Interface (Spring 2016), 63–68.
11. Natasha Bajema, “Emergence and Convergence Risk Assessment Survey: Subject Matter Expert Survey Results Analysis,” National Defense University (2018), 23–24.
12. Elvira, Casadevall i Solvas, Wootton, and deMello, “The Past, Present, and Potential for Microfluidic Reactor Technology in Chemical Synthesis,” 905–906.
13. Andreas Zaugg, Julien Ducry, and Christophe Curty, “Microreactor Technology in Warfare Agent Chemistry,” Military Medical Science Letters 82:2 (2013), 63–68.
14. Parshall, Pearson, Inch, and Becker, “Impact of Scientific Developments on the Chemical Weapons Convention (IUPAC Technical Report),” 2330–2333.
15. Jonathan B. Tucker and Raymond A. Zilinskas, “The Promise and Perils of Synthetic Biology,” New Atlantis 25 (Spring 2008), 38. Cited in: Filippa Lentzos and Pamela Silver, “Synthesis of Viral Genomes,” Innovation, Dual Use, and Security: Managing the Risks of Emerging Biological and Chemical Technologies (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 2012), 136.
16. Ibid, 136–139.
17. Jason A. Reuter, Damek Spacek, and Michael P. Snyder, “High-Throughput Sequencing Technologies,” Molecular Cell 58:4 (May 21, 2015), 586–597.
18. Xin Han, Zongbin Liu, Li Zhao, Feng Wang, Yang Yu, Jianhua Yang, Rui Chen, and Lidong Qin, “Microfluidic Cell Deformability Assay for Rapid and Efficient Kinase Screening with the CRISPR-Cas9 System,” Angewandte Chemie International Edition 55 (2016), 8561–8565.
19. Paul Datlinger, André F. Rendeiro, Christian Schmidl, Thomas Krausgruber, Peter Traxler, Johanna Klughammer, Linda C. Schuster, Amelie Kuchler, Donat Alpar, and Christoph Bock, “Pooled CRISPR Screening with Single-Cell Transcriptome Readout,” Nature Methods 14 (January 18, 2017), 297–301.
20. Parshall, Pearson, Inch, and Becker, “Impact of Scientific Developments on the Chemical Weapons Convention (IUPAC Technical Report),” 2334–2339.
21. Whitesides, “The origins and future of microfluidics,” 368.
22. A. A. Adams, P. T. Charles, J. R. Deschamps, and A. W. Kusterbeck, “REMUS100 AUV with an Integrated Microfluidic System for Explosives Detection,” National Research Laboratory Review, United States Navy (2011).
23. Ibid, 58. See also Zachary Kallenborn and Philipp C. Bleek, “Swarming Destruction: CBRN Implications of Emerging Drone Technology” The Nonproliferation Review (January 2019).
24. Ibid, 2–3, 5.
25. Jo Best, “Organs on Chips: The DARPA-Backed Project Mimicking the Human Body on a Tiny Scale,” ZDNet (May 12, 2016); Gregory Linshiz, Erik Jensen, Nina Stawski, Changhao Bi, Nick Elsbree, Hong Jiao, Jungkyu Kim, Richard Mathies, Jay D. Keasling, and Nathan J. Hillson, “End-to-End Automated Microfluidic Platform for Synthetic Biology: From Design to Functional Analysis,” Journal of Biological Engineering 10:3 (2016), 1–15.
26. Rimantas Kodzius, Frank Schulze, Xinghua Gao, and Marlon R. Schneider, “Organ-on-Chip Technology: Current State and Future Developments,” Genes (Basel) 8:10 (2017), 266–279.