CIC microGUNE, the Co-operative Research Centre into Microtechnologies, is coordinating the microSCALE project which seeks to generate innovative solutions based on microtechnologies to tackle the problems of the mobility industry and life sciences, among others. IK4-Ikerlan, Ceit-IK4, IK4-Tekniker, the Mondragon University and Tecnun are collaborating with CIC microGUNE on this project, which is being supported and funded by the Etortek 2013-2014 programme of the Government of the Basque Autonomous Community.
Hostile environments (involving vibrations, dirt, high temperatures, etc.) are very common in the production processes of our companies. So the microSCALE project is aiming to use microtechnologies to come up with innovative solutions to address the problems of industry relating to the difficulty in monitoring environments that are difficult to access or which involve harsh working conditions. This boils down, for example, to meeting the challenges posed when it comes to measuring magnitudes at temperatures in excess of 400 ⁰C, when determining, for example, the combustion concentrations of a blend, or accurately detecting and determining crack propagation on complex surfaces (on curves and irregular surfaces).
It is hoped that the technologies that will make this possible will have been generated by the end of the year, which will mean a significant advance in the CIC's research agenda. Specifically, the project will be validating the meeting of these technological challenges by means of a deformation microsensor integrated directly onto a metal component with a complex geometry capable of withstanding vibrations and very high temperatures throughout its life cycle. Microsensors of this type are much sought after since they potentially offer significant advantages over those conventionally used in our industrial environment. "The technologies for MEMS developed in this project can be extrapolated to a broad spectrum of sectors and applications," stressed Ainara Rodriguez, a CIC microGUNE Researcher.
In the area of life sciences, and human health in particular, companies are expressing their interest in developing new technologies for Point-of-Care (POC) devices that allow analyses to be automated and their costs to be cut. The challenge, for example, is "to get a portable diagnostic device to be able to quantify rapidly and cheaply various markers at the same time so as to make progress in the early diagnosis of diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, infectious diseases, allergies, etc.", pointed out Josu Martínez, a CIC microGUNE Researcher.
With this aim in mind, research is being done to develop technologies for the quantitative, multiplexed detection of proteins in the blood. "One of the big challenges is for these technologies to enable low-cost devices to be produced in the future so that the generation of knowledge in this activity can favour the competitiveness of the business base," remarked Martínez. Another challenging aspect is "the integrating of all the components, which of themselves bring improvements, into a single robust microsystem which, through the generation of new technologies and knowledge, will exert a real impact on the Basque business base", added Ana Valero, a CIC microGUNE Researcher.