August 23 – 26 , 2015, Dagstuhl Seminar 15352

Design of Microfluidic Biochips: Connecting Algorithms and Foundations of Chip Design to Biochemistry and the Life Sciences


Krishnendu Chakrabarty (Duke University – Durham, US)
Tsung-Yi Ho (National Chiao-Tung University – Hsinchu, TW)
Robert Wille (Universität Bremen, DE)

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Dagstuhl Report, Volume 5, Issue 8 Dagstuhl Report
Aims & Scope
List of Participants
Dagstuhl's Impact: Documents available


Advances in microfluidic technologies have led to the emergence of biochip devices for automating laboratory procedures in biochemistry and molecular biology. These devices enable the precise control of nanoliter-scale biochemical samples and reagents. Therefore, Integrated Circuit(IC) technology can be used to transport a "chemical payload" in the form of micro- or nano-fluidic carriers such as droplets. As a result, non-traditional biomedical applications and markets (e.g., high-throughput DNA sequencing, portable and point-of-care clinical diagnostics, protein crystallization for drug discovery), and fundamentally new uses are opening up for ICs and systems. This represents a More than Moore-approach.

Miniaturized and low-cost biochip systems are revolutionizing a diverse range of applications, e.g., air quality studies, point-of-care clinical diagnostics, drug discovery, and DNA sequencing. Frost & Sullivan recently predicted a 13.5% Compound Annual Growth Rate for the US biochip ("lab-on-chip") market during 2008-2015, and the market size for lab-on-chip alone (not including microarrays, biosensors, and microreactors) is expected to be over $1.6 billion in 2015. Similar growth is anticipated in other parts of the world, especially Europe and Japan. On a broader scale, the annual US market alone for in vitro diagnostics is as high as $10 billion and similar figures have been estimated for the drug discovery market. For clinical diagnostics, it has been predicted that we will soon see 15 billion diagnostic tests/year worldwide.

However, continued growth (and larger revenues resulting from technology adoption by pharmaceutical and healthcare companies) depends on advances in chip integration and design-automation tools. Thus, there is a need to deliver the same level of Computer-Aided Design (CAD) support to the biochip designer that the semiconductor industry now takes for granted. In particular, these CAD tools will adopt computational intelligence for the optimization of biochip designs. Also, the design of efficient CAD algorithms for implementing biochemistry protocols to ensure that biochips are as versatile as the macro-labs that they are intended to replace. This is therefore an opportune time for the software and semiconductor industry and circuit/system designers to make an impact in this emerging field.

Recent years have therefore seen growing interest in design methods and design-automation tools for the digital microfluidic platform, with special issues of IEEE Transactions on CAD and IEEE Design & Test of Computers, special sessions at DAC, ISPD, ASPDAC, and ICCAD, and workshops/tutorials at ISCAS, ICCAD, SOCC, and DATE. A number of CAD research groups worldwide (e.g., Duke University; Carnegie Mellon University; University of Texas at Austin; Rensselaer Polytechnic University; University of California at Riverside; University of Washington; Technical University of Denmark; Technische Universität München; University of Bremen; National Tsing Hua University; National Chiao Tung University, National Taiwan University; Tsinghua University; Indian Statistical Institute; Ritsumeikan University; Nanyang Technological University; Johannes Kepler University Linz) have initiated research projects on CAD for microfluidic biochips.

The goal of the seminar was to bring together experts in order to present and to develop new ideas and concepts for the design automation algorithms and tools for microfluidic biochips. Areas ranging from architecture, synthesis, optimization, verification, testing, and beyond have been covered. Topics which have been discussed included besides others:

  • Architectural synthesis
  • Behavior-level synthesis
  • Cooling for integrated circuits
  • Cross-contamination removal
  • Cyberphysical integration
  • Device modeling
  • Drug-delivery biochips
  • Fault modeling, testing, and protocol verification
  • Light-actuated biochips
  • Numerical simulation
  • On-chip sensors
  • Paper-based microfluidics
  • Particle microfluidics
  • Physical design
  • Pin-constrained design
  • Sample preparation

As results we received a better understanding of the respective areas, new impulses for further research directions, and ideas for areas that will heavily influence research in the domain of design automation on microfluidic biochips within the next years. The seminar facilitated greater interdisciplinary interactions between chip designers, bioengineers, biochemists, and theoretical computer scientists.

The high-quality presentations and lively discussions have been ensured by carefully selected experts who participated at the seminar. All of them have established for themselves a stellar reputation in the respective domains. While researchers working on design automation and optimization of microfluidic biochips build the majority of the participants, also some experts from surrounding research areas attended. For example, researchers working on emerging architectures and applications of microfluidic biochips provided the needed insight for the discussions about the practical problem formulation for commercialized product. Computer scientists with a focus on computer-aided design enriched the discussions about the top-down design methodology and optimization of large-scale components like mixers and routing channels. Therewith, the unique concept of Dagstuhl seminars was applied in order to bring researchers from different domains together so that the interdisciplinary topics could have been discussed and progress in these areas has been made.

Summary text license
  Creative Commons BY 3.0 Unported license
  Krishnendu Chakrabarty, Tsung-Yi Ho, and Robert Wille


  • Hardware
  • Modelling / Simulation
  • Optimization / Scheduling


  • Cyber-physical integration
  • Microfluidic biochip
  • Computer aided design
  • Hardware and software co-design
  • Test
  • Verification


In the series Dagstuhl Reports each Dagstuhl Seminar and Dagstuhl Perspectives Workshop is documented. The seminar organizers, in cooperation with the collector, prepare a report that includes contributions from the participants' talks together with a summary of the seminar.


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Dagstuhl's Impact

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