When she was conducting research at the University of California, Merced, Michelle Khine improvised into an innovative nanotechnology business. Finding herself without the materials or equipment she needed to make tiny chips with fluid-filled cavities, Khine turned to a childhood plaything and printed the designs on Shrinky Dinks. When the plastic shrunk down, the ink thickened and made a mold for the chips. She founded Shrink Nanotechnologies to make nanotechnology affordable and more accessible.

Before Khine’s stroke of genius, creating the microfluidic chips took days, thousands to millions of dollars, and a completely sterile environment. Today, the plastic sheeting used by Shrink Nanotechnologies is one Khine created herself, not the common Shrinky Dink kind, but it remains inexpensive and quick to use. The “labs on a chip” are used to perform experiments on and diagnostic tests for cancer and infectious diseases. Thanks to Shrink and Khine, the technology can now be used in developing countries, where a lack of resources and trained staff had made it prohibitively expensive before.

In 2011, Shrink announced that its first commercial chip would be made available starting at the low price of $19.99. The StemDisc 450 is used for the development and study of spheroid cells and tissues. Available as both an insert and a plate, the StemDisc 450 is fast becoming the standard for anyone researching spheroid cells. With the acquisition of Nanopoint, a biomedical instrumentation and microfluidics company, Shrink is gearing up to expand its offered technology. In fact, with the licensing of its proprietary “electric glue” technology, Shrink has already begun to make waves outside of its field.

From its modest beginnings in a toaster oven at the University of California to its current innovations in the nanotechnology field, Shrink Nanotechnologies will likely be altering the technological landscape for years to come.