There is a high-pressure pump, a MEMS filter optimised for DNA separation, and a single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) detector.

"An SNP is a single nucleotide replacement in a DNA sequence which can result in different reaction by people to pathogens and medicines," said Belgian research lab IMEC. "Detection of these SNPs is therefore becoming increasingly important with the move towards more personalised healthcare."

IMEC has developed the components with Panasonic.

Running from around 1.5V, the pump generates up to 3MPa to push a tiny sample of blood into the filter.

Volumes down to 0.5 microlitres are handled within the following system.

"High pressure is essential to generate a fluid flow through the next unit of the SNP detection system," said IMEC.

The filter, pictured, is a micro-pillar array made deep-UV patterning silicon. Each pillar is typically 20µm high with 1-2µm inter-pillar gaps.

"The pillar array is used for DNA separation based on ion-pair reversed-phase liquid chromatography," said IMEC. "This resulted in the first miniaturised on-chip system that enables fast and highly selective separation of short, double stranded DNA strands which only differ 50 base pairs in length."

This claimed to be the highest resolution yet achieved and, according to the lab, indicates that it will be possible to handle five SNPs at the same time in the final detection system.

Other functional units of the detector are a unit for DNA extraction and polymerase chain reaction using heaters and temperature sensors, and the SNP detection unit based on electrochemical sensors.