The micro-maze is realized in PDMS and measures 1×1 mm2 Photo: Stein Stie

Microscopic Pacman – an arts and science collaboration project
May 24, 2017

Scientists from USN recreate the famous arcade game from 1980 in a microscopic format by using state of the art micro fabrication technique.
The microchip is made from polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) and glass with microfluidic channels designed as a maze structure. It is submerged in water, and the microorganisms are let in through two microfluidic entrances. They proceed to chase each other through the maze, constituting a fascinating imitation of the Pacman game.
The original film is available through YouTube

and there is also an edited version by HSN

The project

This particular project was the brainchild of an arts and science collaboration between filmdirector Adam Bartley and Erik Johannessen at the University College of Southeast Norway (USN). The quest was to design a system that the general public would instantly recognize and understand while supporting the scientific basis behind the research. Although most scientific work is published in journals and scientific conferences, bridging this work to the public domain is more challenging, but increasingly important in order to secure interest and recruitment to the fields of natural science and engineering. The basis of arts conveying a story proved to be a powerful tool in this particular project going viral in the summer of 2016 reaching international media such as Reuters, ITN, CNN and countless internet sites.
The project was funded by Vestfold Regional Innovation (VRI) with additional experimental support provided by Stein Stie (photography) and Kjetil Reier-Røberg (microbiology).




Protozoa (from Greek protos “first” + zoia “animal”) belongs to the phylum of Animalia and consists of primitive unicellular microscopic organisms that range from symbiont species to parasites of larger organism as well as being predators of bacteria, algae and other protists. Protozoa have metabolic pathways similar to those of higher animals and require the same types of organic and inorganic compounds as food source and nutrients. Hence they can act as model species in research investigating the physiological effect of toxins and drugs as well as deconvolution of the interaction between mammalian cells and protozoan parasites. Most work is conducted in open petri dishes or culture flasks that does not represent their real habitat consisting of corridors and channels in rotting vegetation (free living) or the matrix of living tissue (parasites). This project aimed to develop a schematic representation of the real habitat of free living protozoan species in order to normalize their behavior in an experimental setting.