Research at the IPGG

IPGG Labex 2 focuses on 9 main cutting-edge themes: 4 already themes started these past years and 5 seeding new scientific directions. As a common characteristic, these unifying themes target frontier questions with high potential impact in fundamental science, and for which micro- and nano- fluidics could provide groundbreaking solutions; these themes share the need for an interdisciplinary approach; they also offer a short path towards innovation, with high societal value.

Origin of Life and Evolution

@QDevBio_Curie Institute

Microfluidics provides powerful tools to tackle this challenging and broad question (including extra-terrestrial life) which is of great societal interest. In particular, compartmentalization is widely believed to have played a critical role in the emergence of life, and microfluidics allows compartmentalization of reactions on a microscopic scale under highly controlled conditions with fixed conditions of temperature, illumination for instance. Ongoing work indicates that it is possible to create systems purely based on chemistry and physical-chemistry that display many features of living systems and it may even be possible to demonstrate chemical systems that display (at least rudimentary) Darwinian evolution.

Organs on a chip

@MMBM_Curie Institute

“Organs-on-chip”, a new class of micro-engineered laboratory models more respectful of the architecture and function of live organs than current model such as organoids, allow to reproduce in vivo microenvironments for pathological and physiological comparison. Along the same lines, microfluidics has also been put to work recently to study with unprecedented control model full organisms, such as C. Elegans or Zebrafish embryos, and to reconstitute and study full cellular ecosystems. Applications range from fundamental understanding of biophysics and development, replacement of animal models in drug discovery and toxicology, and regenerative medicine.

Flow Chemistry


The last decade has witnessed a substantial increase in the interest of continuous flow reactors to perform chemical synthesis. The main benefits of such an approach are the improved heat and mass transfer, efficient mixing, precise parameter control, the ease of heating solvents above their boiling point, higher safety when dealing with reactive and hazardous intermediates, and relative simplicity of their automation and telescoping of multistep reactions. The traditional scale-up optimization process in batch chemical engineering can be replaced by direct parallelization in a bench-sized flow device. Recent development coupling flow chemistry and plasma technologies are highly promising and will be boosted.

Environnement and water purification


Water treatment, filtration, desalination have become key challenges in our actual societies. In particular, this embraces the study of membranes and separation, which – in spite of a number of progress – reaches the limits of optimization. Similar to the Ion-based energy harvesting and storage theme, future breakthroughs require the development of innovative materials for the membranes and would benefit strongly from the new – sometime exotic - transport behaviors occurring at the smallest scales, as well as the development of new types of membranes.

Micro-organisms for health and environment


Soil preservation and enrichment, waste treatment, colonization phenomena by micro-organisms or nosocomial infections by commensal or pathogenic microbes are a number of examples which underline the importance of understanding the nature and dynamics of the microbiota and its interactions with the vegetal and animal kingdom. Because of its ability to create chemically controlled and compartmentalized micro-environments, microfluidics has a key role to play in these domains. 


@Indysoft_ESPCI PSL

The modelling of microscale fluid phenomena is inherent to the overall study of microfluidics and spread over the teams of IPGG. We feel that it is relevant to encourage the transverse development of modelling at the scale of IPGG in order to share the know-how. This embraces all relevant scales, from the design of large scale devices, to the modelling of physical-chemistry process at the molecular scales, as well as the ion/molecular transport toward porous and crowded spaces, reaching the molecular.

Ion-based energy harvesting and storage

@MicroMegas_ENS PSL

The domain of batteries, flow-cells, supercapacitors, osmotic energy and capacitive mixing are all forms of energy harvesting and storage implying fluids and ions as an energy vector. Novel solutions and improvements will now come from a fundamental understanding and a control of fluid / ionic transport at the nano- and molecular scales, and from the development of innovative materials for membrane-based process. Microfluidic devices provide controlled environments in which flow properties are finely tuned to provide suitable chemical and physical conditions. Coupled to micro- and nano- printing, this offers opportunities in the domain of energy to build original structures, as micro Lithium ion batteries, redox flow cells, or electroactive bacteria batteries. 

Single cell

@Bio6_Curie Institute

Systems Biology and high throughput genomics have brought a major revolution in biology, but have progressively faced major limitations associated with the intrinsic heterogeneity of living systems. One solution is to apply high throughput genomic and potentially proteomic tools at a single-cell level, while retaining their high-throughput properties. Thanks to fluid compartmentalization, parallelization and cost efficiency of analytical protocols, microfluidics is the workhorse of single-cell technologies. It brings quantitative phenotyping and manipulation of single cells and of their micro-environments, including culture and cloning for rare cells or difficult to handle primary cells from patients. Future developments will also combine single-cell micro-environment control and manipulation with the single-cell analysis methods.

E-Skin, soft and flexible electronic


Microfluidics and micro-fabrication based on PDMS enable the development of flexible electronics including pressure sensors, strain sensors and temperature sensors calling coined “e-skin”. It has resulted in innovations such as smart bandages for health monitoring or sensors for monitoring the wing status of aero planes. Improvements in smart, flexible microfluidics are anticipated to lead to further advances in flexible electronics by offering simple solutions without including inorganic and silicon components. New properties such as biocompatibility, biodegradability, self-healing, ultra-sensitivity, and self-powering are new challenges in this field that will be reached at the IPGG. Areas of potential use range from physiological status monitoring in neo-natal intensive care units, to assessment of cellular responses to pharmaceuticals.