Wall-Less Microfluidics with On-Site Magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) Pumps for Continuous Flow Control
Background: A disadvantage of closed microfluidic channels are that they are made from different materials. Also, most of the microchannels are fabricated from lithography techniques which require the utilization of cleanroom environments, increasing the fabrication costs. Another disadvantage of the closed microchannel is that, after several rounds of fluid flow through, the channels become contaminated and difficult to clean. Technology: Researchers at the University of California have developed a method of "wall-less" microfluidic channel fabrication. In this method, an open network is used, reducing or eliminating the need to consume materials to fabricate the aforementioned closed channels. Because it is an open network, it is also easy to clean and reuse. The open channels also reduce the energy consumed by friction on the physical wall of the microchannel. Thus, in order to achieve the same flow rate as a sealed channel, lower pressure is needed to pump the fluid. As a result, magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) pumps may be used for pumping the fluid.
This method utilizes surface tension to confine fluid on hydrophilic patterns. In this method, the substrate's "wettability" can be modified with appropriate treatment of the surface and a virtual microchannel can be defined by those hydrophilic patterns that form the microfluidic channels. The hydrophobic parts are the "walls". The surface tension at the interface of the hydrophilic and hydrophobic balances with the inertial force and confines the flow in the hydrophilc zones. For transporting of the liquid on the wall-less microfluidics, a magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) pump is used since the structure for which is simple and only pairs of electrodes are needed. By integrating MHD pumps onto the wall-less microfluidics, one can non-invasively control the flow.
One of the advantages of wall-less microfluidics is that since there is no momentum consumed on the wall so that the flow resistance is minimized, and less pressure is required for pumping fluid compared with close microchannels. When pumping biological samples, like cells in medium, the effect of the adhesion of biological objects to the physical walls is eliminated. Compared with real wall MHD microfluidics, wall-less MHD fluidics can have higher flow rate and speed up the analysis procedures. Application: This invention implements a new concept, wall-less microfluidics together with Magnetohydrodvnamic (MHD) micropumps integrated into the microfluidic chip to do fluidic analysis. Unlike current microfluidic techniques where microchannels is fabricated fiom different materials silicon glass, polymer et al, wall-less microfluidics doesn't need channels, instead surface tension is utilized to confined fluid in a virtual channel network.
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