Electronics Technology


Tiny pump is sweet news for diabetics

20 April 2005 Electronics Technology

For some diabetes sufferers, there is a daily need to inject themselves with insulin. If they forget or delay it, they can soon experience serious after-effects. They have to self-administer insulin every day and this can interfere with their work and social lives.

An answer to their needs seems to be coming closer as a Wales-based company, Starbridge Systems, is developing a tiny pump that could regularly deliver the insulin they require - without a needle. The size of a small coin, the pump can be discreetly and securely attached to the skin, like a sticking plaster, with the control device attached to a belt or kept in a pocket. Once in place, it can deliver the amount of insulin needed at given intervals over a period of several days.

Futuristic, automatic drug-delivery systems, such as this insulin micro pump, are the main focus of research and development into micro-fluidics at Starbridge Systems, a high-technology facility linked to the University of Wales, Swansea.

At the heart of the technology - and the cleverest and most innovative element of it - are the simple and inexpensive light-activated micro-actuators (LAMs) it uses to provide the energy and control for its range of miniaturised liquid handling devices. The company says its products are typically 100 times smaller than those currently available and provide a high level of functionality.

"The LAMs, activated by infrared radiation, comprise a thermomechanically active material that generates movement when heated," explained Starbridge's chief executive officer, Dr Joseph Cefai, a recognised expert in microfluidic system development. "Combined together, the different elements of our technology allow the design and manufacture of micro devices that are unparalleled in complexity in terms of their fluid-handling functions."

Despite this complexity, inexpensive materials and construction methods are used, according to the researchers. This world first technology is also highly flexible and could allow the company to miniaturise individual components and to build systems that incorporate large numbers of the devices.

www.labstar.co.uk





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