Nextreme Thermal Solutions, the leader in micro-scale thermal management and power generation solutions, today announced a new reference design for a compact PCR thermal cycler for field-level DNA amplification. The small size and fast response time of Nextreme's embedded thin-film eTEC thermoelectric modules enable a new generation of thermal cyclers that feature significantly shorter throughput times, smaller sample sizes, and reduced footprint for promoting real-time testing in healthcare, forensics, and food safety.

PCR is a technique widely used in molecular biology to produce millions of copies of a specific DNA sequence. PCR-based testing is used in the diagnosis of hereditary diseases, the identification of genetic fingerprints, and the detection and diagnosis of infectious diseases. PCR uses thermal cyclers to alternately heat and cool a DNA sample based on a predefined series of temperature steps to facilitate the amplification of the DNA.

Typical thermal cyclers used in laboratory settings consist of a metal block with 96 wells where plastic vials holding the PCR reaction mixtures are inserted. The instrument typically uses thermoelectrics to control the temperature of the entire block and thus all samples simultaneously.  The amplification process often takes two hours to complete. A new market for field-level, point-of-service PCR is evolving that requires amplification of smaller sample sizes much more rapidly.

The Nextreme thermal cycler is designed to provide small, single-well systems with rapid, programmable control to expedite the amplification process and enable point-of-service systems.  Standard PCR thermal cyclers have temperature ramp rates of up to 5°C per second.  In contrast, the Nextreme thermal cycler design is capable of producing up to a 25°C per second temperature ramp in a 50 µL sample, which is five times faster than standard cyclers. Much faster ramp rates are possible from samples as small as 5 µL.

According to industry experts, the global PCR products market is expected to grow from nearly $5 billion in 2010 to nearly $8 billion by 2015, at an estimated compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.9% from 2010 to 2015. The instruments segment reached $1.7 billion in 2010 and is expected to grow to nearly $2.7 billion at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.6% from 2010 to 2015. Much of this growth stems from the need for thermal cyclers to become more portable, promoting real-time testing by bringing the testing to the event such as testing bio-pathogens or DNA identification in the field rather than transporting samples to the lab.

"Our technology can enable a new generation of compact thermal cyclers for equipment manufacturers that lower the barriers-to-entry and increase opportunities for differentiation," said Bob Collins, Nextreme’s vice president of business development.

“Nextreme has conducted rigorous reliability tests on the eTEC family of thermoelectric modules in terms of mechanical shock, thermal storage and power cycling,” added Collins. “In all cases, the results strongly indicate that the modules are highly reliable for use in PCR thermal cycling applications.

Nextreme offers several thermoelectric coolers that are designed for thermal cycling applications. Nextreme recommends the use of its thermal modeling, design and engineering services to deliver fully-optimized PCR thermal cycling solutions. Nextreme routinely conducts analytical and numerical thermal modeling at all design levels from component to module to subsystem.  Modules are available for ordering now. Pricing for services is available upon request.

Nextreme Thermal Solutions