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Microfluidic Chip

Microfluidics refers to a set of technologies that control the flow of minute amounts of liquids or gases — typically measured in nano- and picoliters — in a miniaturized system.

Just as a computer chip has carefully-arranged wires that electricity moves around, a microfluidic chip has tiny channels etched onto it that fluids move around. In a biochemistry laboratory, a chemist might pipette some solution out of a flask, mix it with a reagent, fractionate it, or perform other operations on it. The interesting thing is that most of these processes are just a matter of moving liquids around, so they can be replicated with microfluidics. The advantage is that microfluidics is much cheaper, safer and requires less skill. Room-sized diagnostic testing equipment can be shrunk down to the size of a postage stamp. This is also called "lab-on-a-chip".

Applications are as vast as they are revolutionary, and include -

  • Medical diagnostics and blood tests
  • Medical and chemical research - testing for genes, chemical separation and reactions
  • Environmental sensing - testing water quality, air quality, monitoring for environmental toxins
  • Testing for plant diseases
  • Testing soils (biosensor example here)
  • mining
  • developing biofuels
  • and many more.

Microfluidics in Open Source Ecology[edit]

We are interested in very cheap, open-source ways of making microfluidic chips. There are plenty of groups working on this; it's a matter of gathering the information.

DIY microfluidics methods[edit]

  • How to make a microfluidic chip using double-sided sellotape, glass slides and a scalpel: [1]. This requires inlet and outlet holes in the slide; perhaps these could be made with a laser cutter?
  • Complex 3D microfluidic devices made with alternating layers of paper and double-sided tape: [2]. The tape was cut using a laser cutter. The paper was treated with photoresist (a light-sensitive polymer) and exposed to UV light when masked with a transparency with a pattern printed onto it. Cost of fabricating a chip = $0.03.
  • Disposable microfluidic devices created using regular wax paper
  • Shrinky Dink® microfluidics - academic paper here

Channel designs[edit]

Are there online repositories of channel designs for different purposes?

Micado is open-source software for designing microfluidic chips.

Materials and Equipment Used[edit]



George Whitesides, Harvard University[edit]

In his legendary career in chemistry, George Whitesides has been a pioneer in microfabrication and nanoscale self-assembly. Now, he's fabbing a diagnostic lab on a chip.

Further Reading[edit]