Microfluidic Fabrication Made Simple

Scientists in Singapore have used fluoropolymers to create microfluidic devices that do not swell upon exposure to organic solvents.

AsianScientist (Feb. 18, 2019) – In a study published in Biomicrofluidics, researchers in Singapore have developed microfluidic devices using fluoropolymers which are resistant to organic solvents.

A wide range of biomedical applications require contents in biological fluid to be separated and analyzed using microfluidic devices in which tiny volumes of liquid are passed through minuscule channels. Currently, many microfluidic devices are made from silicone rubbers such as polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS).

PDMS is popular in academic laboratories because of the simplicity of its fabrication and the material’s well-characterized properties. However, PDMS is not compatible with strong organic solvents; they quickly swell up upon contact. Hence, microfluidic channels possessing chemical and solvent compatibility would be desirable.

A research team from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) led by Assistant Professor Michinao Hashimoto has developed a simple method to fabricate microchannels using fluoropolymers—a class of polymers including Teflon—that are highly inert to chemicals and solvents.

The research group applied xurography, a digital fabrication technique, that allowed them to cut films of fluoropolymers and heat-press them to from microchannels. The researchers reported that it took them less than one hour to design and assemble the microchannels.

They also identified the precise conditions of heat pressing for two common fluoropolymers: polytetrafluoroethylene and fluorinated ethylene propylene. Exposing the fluoropolymer microchannels to organic solvents, they found that their microfluidic device was more robust than those made from PDMS.

“This work is the first demonstration to bridge the gap to rapidly fabricate microfluidic channels using fluoropolymers. Microchannels consisting of fluoropolymers can be useful in performing organic syntheses of materials and drugs as well as regulating adhesion of biological molecules, cells and bacteria,” said Hashimoto of SUTD.

“This method is extremely simple, and we believe it can be performed by literally any researcher—including non-engineers—for various applications that require channels to be inert and non-reactive.”

The article can be found at: Hizawa et al. (2018) Rapid Prototyping of Fluoropolymer Microchannels by Xurography for Improved Solvent Resistance.


Source: Singapore University of Technology and Design.
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