In infochemistry alphanumerical information is transmitted by chemistry (Kim et al. 2010 DOI). In one manifestation called the infofuse, a strip of nitrocellulose is ignited and as the flame-front moves forward with a speed of 3 centimeter per second it encounters metal-salt containing spots in an information pattern. By using 4 different metals, 7 distinct optical pulses are created. Problem to solve: slow down flame-front speed to allow uninterrupted 24-hour transmission of information. Solution: create a slowfuse pattern connecting information-carrying fastfuse strands. Implementation: apply slow match technology (invented 15th century), a cigarette will also do.
Wax printing is proposed as an inexpensive way to produce microfluidic patterns (channels & reservoirs) in a paper-based analytical device (PAD) based on a commercial printer , wax of course and a hot plate. The printer delivers the wax on a paper sheet and the hot plate melts the wax into the paper forming hydrophobic barriers. The aim is zero-cost medical diagnostics for for example the measurement of glucose and cholesterol levels. Another example is ELISA testing with again paper now replacing a regular microtiter plate (Cheng et al. DOI). HIV antibody test results can be scanned and quantisised using a cheap scanner or cell phone.
The Whitesides lab has also tackled the critical issue of measuring reduced-fat content in peanut butter. Mirica et al. (DOI) did so by measuring peanut butter density by magnetic levitation , a technique ordinarily used to suspend trains or lab animals. Skippy's reduced fat peanut butter clearly stands out from the regular one.
Moving on from the unusual to the bizarre: how about confining the miniature worm C. elegans (length: 1 mm) to a lab-on-a-chip (Hulme et al. DOI). The chip houses 16 worms, each in their individual chamber with a channel for delivering a constant supply of food (E. Coli) and a channel for removal of bacterial waste and progeny and for clamping down the worm. Compared to the old-fashioned petri-dish, the chip allows the continuous monitoring (a microscope) of a single worm throughout its lifetime inside its chamber. The worms live for about 9 days. The main conclusions: the longer it takes for the worm to grow to maximum volume the longer it will live and the longer the worm is able to swim above a certain stroke frequency the longer it will live. Main cause of death after the 9 days: eggs hatching inside the worm instead outside of the worm (not-so intelligent design).