Researchers have found a way to make the normally brittle material of glass bend and flex, adding a new level of flexibility to the microscopic world of medical devices.
The research opens up the ability to create a new family of lab-on-a-chip devices based on flexing glass.
"If you keep the movements to the nanoscale, glass can still snap back into shape," said lead researcher Aaron Hawkins, Professor at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, US.
"We've created glass membranes that can move up and down and bend," Hawkins added.
Glass has some great perks. It is stiff and solid and not a material upon which things react, it's easy to clean, and it is not toxic, according to lead study author John Stout from Brigham Young University.
"Glass is clean for sensitive types of samples, like blood samples," Stout said.
"Working with this glass device will allow us to look at particles of any size and at any given range. It will also allow us to analyse the particles in the sample without modifying them," Stout added.
While current lab-on-a-chip membrane devices effectively function on the microscale, the new research, published in the journal Applied Physics Letters, will allow equally effective work at the nanoscale.
Chemists and biologists could use the nanoscale devices to move, trap and analyse very small biological particles like proteins, viruses and DNA.
The researchers believe their device could also mean performing successful tests using much smaller quantities of a substance.
Instead of needing several ounces to run a blood test, the glass membrane device created by the researchers would only require a drop or two of blood.