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Experts harness the power of acoustic waves

5th June 2018

When academic leaders from the field of acoustofluidics descended on Northumbria University to explore emerging biological uses of acoustic waves, they made an impact in more ways than one.

They’d been invited to the University to take part in the International Acoustofluidics Forum and Olympics, to explore new and emerging uses of acoustic waves and microfluidics.

Acoustofluidics is a field of multi-disciplinary physics which examines what happens when acoustic waves and liquids interact, and explores how those interactions can be applied for use in society including in the fields of medicine and biological technology.

Expert speakers from Germany, Australia, France, China and Austria joined academics from 15 UK universities for the event, which was also attended by industry leaders alongside GCSE and A-level pupils.

The symposium included a special ‘Acoustofluidics Olympics’ where academics came together to demonstrate the wide range of applications for acoustofluidics - such as moving, propelling, and jetting objects in liquid, on solid surfaces, or through air. Invited guests were able to see academics working to create the most exciting impacts with their experiments. These included the creation of a ‘nano earthquake’ for fluidic actuations, levitating the heaviest object using sound waves, atomising liquid for drug analysis and manipulating cells, particles and droplets for various biosampling and tissue engineering applications.

The focus of the forum was to discuss new and developing ways in which microfluidics and acoustofluidics could be used in the fields of biological science and medicine, including biosampling, microanalysis and medical diagnosis.

The forum also provided opportunities for attendees from business and industry to speak to the University’s Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) advisors about potential funding and partnerships. It closed with a brainstorming session around the future challenges facing acoustofluidics and how experts could come together to tackle those challenges.

The event was the third meeting of the UK Fluidic Network’s Acoustofluidics Special Interest Group. It was organised by Prof. Richard Fu from the Department of Maths, Physics and Electrical Engineering, who leads this Special Interest Group, along with Dr Julien Reboud from Glasgow University and Dr Jeremy Hawks.

Prof. Fu said: “Acoustofluidics are generated in piezoelectric materials and can be used in a huge variety of ways, from biosampling to chemical microanalysis, and from drug analysis to tissue engineering, making it a vital area of research.

He added: “The work of the Acoustofluidics Special Interest Group is to explore engineering and applications of acoustofluidics in diagnostic systems, biotechnology and biomedicine. It’s a fascinating, emerging field and the fact that we managed to attract such a large number of academic experts from around the world is a testament to the growing interest in this area and Northumbria University’s influence as an authority in this field of research.”

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