STTR Phase I: MSM uPump: Precision Dosing for Laboratory Research

Period of Performance: 07/01/2016 - 06/30/2017


Phase 1 STTR

Recipient Firm

Shaw Mountain Technology LLC
891 W Gettysburg St
Boise, ID 83706
Firm POC, Principal Investigator

Research Institution

Boise State University
1910 University Drive
Boise, ID 83725
Institution POC


This Small Business Technology Transfer Phase I project will enable biomolecular research by developing a high precision micropump utilizing a magnetic shape memory (MSM) mechanism. The MSM mechanism translates magnetic energy into mechanical work through an MSM alloy. The MSM material replaces many of the mechanical parts found in other micropump technologies and can precisely manipulate the very small fluid volumes handled by many researchers, such as biomolecular physicists and electro-neurophysiologists. Precision micro-dosing will decrease the costs of such research by decreasing the volume of reagents consumed and by increasing the efficacy and efficiency of experiments. This project will develop laboratory instrumentation for the institutional research market and will later expand to enter the nearly $3 billion microfluidic devices market. It will further develop MSM technology that will translate to multiple markets including healthcare. The broader impacts range from improvements in personalized medicine through point-of-care diagnostics, to the development of more efficient drugs, for example in cancer treatment, through enhanced pharmaceutical research. The intellectual merit of this project focuses on increasing the pumping resolution of the MSM micropump for precision micro-dosing for laboratory research. The pump design is biomimetic and works similarly to how mammals swallow. By applying a magnetic field, a peristaltic motion is generated in the MSM material which can be used to repeatedly pump precise quantities of fluid. This technology boasts a unique combination of features including (1) contact-free magnetic actuation, (2) no mechanical parts, (3) combination of the pumping mechanism and valve into a single element, (4) reversibility of the flow direction, (5) operation even with a high back pressure, (6) applicability to gases and viscous liquids, and (7) high precision at small volumes. Reducing the size of the MSM magneto-mechanical transducer will increase the pumping resolution. Since the surface-area-to-volume ratio is larger for smaller MSM transducers, surface stresses must be controlled more delicately. One key outcome of this work will be the development of surface treatment methods to improve magneto-mechanical fatigue life and the performance of the device. Through systematic experiments, this project will establish fundamental processing-structure-properties-performance relationships for MSM transducers, and will also demonstrate prototype devices for biomolecular research.