A Microfabrication Process for Vertical Microelectrodes inside Polymer Microchannels

Background: For microfluidic applications, different electrodes inside the microfluidic channels may be patterned by metal evaporation methods such as thermal evaporation, electric beam evaporation, and sputtering. Since most of the deposition methods only deposit very thin layers of metal (e.g., usually thousands of Angstrom), while the microfluidic channels have dimensions of 10-100um, this means the electrodes are often deposited at the bottom of the microchannel. Unfortunately, electrodes deposited at the bottom of the microchannel creates a non-uniform electric field distribution. In some cases, however, there is a need for uniform electric fields to achieve the desired performance. The fabrication of vertical microelectrodes within a channel is one way to accomplish a uniform electric field distribution. However, current microfabrication techniques does not allow one to make electrodes on the sidewall of microchannels. Technology: University of California researchers have developed a microfabrication process to make vertical electrodes inside a microchannel. Using this method, the electrodes are part of the channel walls, thus generating a uniform electric field in the channel. Microchannels with vertical, embedded microelectrodes allows for electrical manipulation of chemical or biological objects. The process is based on a photolithography technique with thin film spin coating, metal evaporation, and electroplating. The process enables vertical electrodes to be made along the height of the microchannel. This configuration is able to integrate multifunctional devices on the same chip to have a wide range of application in microfluidics. Application: The technology may be used to build microfluidic platforms with electrical manipulation tools such as electrophoresis, isoelectric focusing, impedance sensing, electroporation. It has industrial and academic applications and is a promising platform for chemical and biochemical research.

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