Rapid advances in microfabrication, DNA and protein microarray and microfluidic technologies have enabled the development of fully-integrated, miniaturized systems. These so called 'laboratory-on-a-chip' (LOC) devices perform sample preparation (i.e. concentration, separation and purification) together with biochemical reactions and detection steps in a simple and automated manner. We believe LOC technology for environmental microbiology studies will have immediate impacts on microbial monitoring by achieving detection and identification within minutes at the single-cell level, and on microbial ecology by deepening the understanding of microbial community structure and diversity and correlating these with niche-specific functions within a micro space. In the long run, significant impacts are anticipated on environmental metagenomics and proteomics.
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