Microfluidic systems are part of an emerging technology which deals with minute amounts of liquids (biological samples and reagents) on a small scale. They are fast, compact and can be made into a highly integrated system to deliver sample purification, separation, reaction, immobilization, labelling, as well as detection, thus are promising for applications such as lab-on-a-chip and handheld healthcare devices. Miniaturized micropumps typically consist of a moving-part component, such as a membrane structure, to deliver liquids, and are often unreliable, complicated in structure and difficult to be integrated with other control electronics circuits. The trend of new-generation micropumps is moving-part-free micropumps operated by advanced techniques, such as electrokinetic force, surface tension/energy, acoustic waves. This paper reviews the development and advances of relevant technologies, and introduces electrowetting-on-dielectrics and acoustic wave-based microfluidics. The programmable electrowetting micropump has been realized to dispense and manipulate droplets in 2D with up to 1000 addressable electrodes and electronics built underneath. The acoustic wave-based microfluidics can be used not only for pumping, mixing and droplet generation but also for biosensors, suitable for single-mechanism-based lab-on-a-chip applications. © 2009 IOP Publishing Ltd.