Published: Jan. 5, 2021 By

A cell

Yu Gao, a postdoctoral associate in the Paul M. Rady Department of Mechanical Engineering, is the lead author of a new paper in Biomaterials Science that is highlighted on the back cover. The short literature review recaps the most recent technologies where sound is used to handle or characterize tiny biomaterials such as biological cells and molecules.

"One of the important purposes of this review is that we hope it can foster the adoption of sound in biomaterials science to further advance its development," Gao said. "In particular, the sound here refers to on-chip surface acoustic wave which is one of the signature technologies in our Biomedical Microfluidics Lab at CU Boulder."

Other CU Boulder authors on the publication include graduate researcher Apresio Kefin Fajrial, previous postdoctoral scholar Tao Yang, and Assistant Professor Xiaoyun Ding, all from mechanical engineering.


A surface acoustic wave (SAW) is a sound wave travelling on the surface of an elastic material. SAW offers a robust control of the acoustic energy leading to an unparalleled versatility. As an actuator, SAW can exert acoustic forces on particles and fluids thus enabling dexterous micro/nanoscale manipulations. As a sensor, SAW has a unique sensing capability upon changes in the environment. On-chip SAW technology, in which SAW is integrated with modern lab-on-a-chip (LOC), has drawn a lot of attention in recent years and found various exciting applications in micro/nanosystems. In particular, its well-known biocompatibility provides on-chip SAW technology as an exceptional platform for biomaterials research at the small-scale. In this minireview, we highlighted recent advances of on-chip SAW technology for biomaterials manipulation and characterization with a focus on cell-based (e.g. single-cell and multicellular) biomaterials. We also discussed and shared our perspective on future directions for this emerging research field.

Read the full paper online