Posted: June 01, 2011
Research rock stars: Water star
CSU's Chuck Henry using integrated circuits to study drinking water contaminantsBy Kyle Ringo
Chuck Henry has loved the art of experimentation since he was a small boy visiting his father's chemistry lab at College of the Ozarks in Branson, Mo.
He says he always was destined for a life in science even though he didn't necessarily enjoy the side of chemistry that keeps most who practice it cooped up for hours inside in stale laboratories.
Henry, a Colorado State University professor, has developed a way around that with patent-pending technology that allows him to work in the field and still conduct experiments once confined to labs with the same accuracy while finding answers much quicker than before.
Henry developed Lab on a Chip using integrated circuit technology from the manufacturing sector to help him identify the elements in samples from the air we breathe to drinking water to blood. It also dramatically cut the cost from more traditional analysis to as little as $5 per test.
"We're trying to make chemistry the size of a credit card," Henry said.
Henry's research breakthrough ultimately led to the formation of Advanced MicroLabs LLC, a Fort Collins-based company using the technology for further research in a wide variety of applications. Advanced MicroLabs has five full-time employees and five part-time employees.
"I've always kind of kept my eye open," Henry said. "If we do things in my academic lab that can help people and make a useful product, it's something I've always been interested in doing. A lot of the things we do in the academic lab is research, and it will never make it any further than my lab. But I would say we are always kind of looking for those opportunities."
Henry, a father to five sons ranging in age from 4 to 16, spent a month in California earlier this year looking at small air particles in the atmosphere in trying to understand how people are affecting climate and the air we breathe.
He will return to California later this summer to work on identifying drinking water contaminants using lab on a chip technology.
The company also is doing work on cancer technologies trying to use its techniques and product to provide doctors and clinicians answers about diagnosis in a matter of minutes at a cost estimated to be one-tenth of what traditional tests and laboratories require.
"It's just something I have always enjoyed," Henry said. "I enjoy the creative side of science. This is a way I get to do different things and try different things that aren't limited by what I would say are traditional instrumentation and traditional approaches."