Optofluidics is a rapidly advancing field that utilizes the integration of optics and microfluidics to provide a number of novel functionalities in microsystems. In this review, we discuss how this approach can potentially be applied to address some of the greatest challenges facing both the developing and developed world, including healthcare, food shortages, malnutrition, water purification, and energy. While medical diagnostics has received most of the attention to date, here we show that some other areas can also potentially benefit from optofluidic technology. Whenever possible we briefly describe how microsystems are currently used to address these problems and then explain why and how optofluidics can provide better solutions. The focus of the article is on the applications of optofluidic techniques in low-resource settings, but we also emphasize that some of these techniques, such as those related to food production, food safety assessment, nutrition monitoring, and energy production, could be very useful in well-developed areas as well.
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