Applied microchip technology to chemical analysis
Harrison received his BSc from Simon Fraser University (1980) and his PhD from MIT (1984). He joined the Analytical Chemistry division at the University of Alberta as a Faculty member in 1984. He is a leader in the development of miniature analytical systems. Micromachining techniques are used to fabricate tiny three-dimensional structures that can carry out chemical analyses on a piece of silicon or glass a couple of centimetres square. The result is a lab-on-a-chip useful for immunological tests for hormones and drugs of abuse, DNA diagnostics, tests for soil and water contamination, and detection of biological warfare agents on the battlefield. Small size makes test kits portable and inexpensive. As well, chemical analyses can be completed in seconds. A lab-on-a-chip also requires only a minute volume of test material—about one billionth of a millilitre. Perhaps most amazing are the detection limits of these devices. They are capable of detecting picomolar concentrations—that’s like one Tylenol tablet dissolved in 12 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Harrison received a 1996 Steacie Memorial Fellowship.