Open-source microfluidic design: MIT opens online repository

June 13, 2017 // By Julien Happich
Metafluidics is a brand new open repository for fluidic systems, built by MIT Lincoln Laboratory in partnership with open source technology & design consulting company Bocoup and maintained by the Community Biotechnology Initiative at the MIT Media Lab.

Seen at Metafluidics.org, the site is built as a free repository of designs for lab-on-a-chip devices, submitted by all sorts of inventors, including trained scientists and engineers, hobbyists, students, and amateur makers. Users can browse the site for devices ranging from simple cell sorters and fluid mixers, to more complex chips with niche dedicated functionalities.

The new site also hosts a social platform for the microfluidics community where users can log in to submit a design, comment on other designs and download design files to reproduce a featured device or improve on it.

“There’s a familiar experience for people in microfluidics: you see a really amazing paper that shows you a design, but if you want to try to copy the design, the actual design files that are a critical part of reproducing or remixing a device are not shared in any systematic way”, explains David S. Kong, director of the MIT Media Lab’s new Community Biotechnology Initiative.

“As a result, researchers around the world are in parallel reinventing the wheel. It’s one of the reasons why open-source in general is a very powerful set of principles. It can really accelerate the diffusion of technology.”

Kong and his colleagues outlined the open-source platform in a paper published last week in the journal Nature Biotechnology. With Metafluidics, the researchers emulated popular open-source repositories such as GitHub and Thingiverse, albeit with a focus on microfluidics.