A microfluidic differential manometer for cellular-scale hydrodynamics

Summary Background:

The development and application of microfluidic systems have increased dramatically in recent years. The systems that typically involve controlled fluid flow through a number of microfluidic channels can provide unique platforms useful in both research and production. Flow through a microchannel is the result of competition between pressure driving the flow and viscous stresses that resist the motion. Soft objects in a microchannels (cells etc.) can modify the resistance significantly. Measurement of the pressure drop in a microchannel due to the presence of a soft deformable object is potentially a useful way to study the dynamics of changes in the soft object. To date there has been no way to measure pressure drops in a microfluidic channel because of the small size of the channel and the large (relative) size of pressure measuring devices. This has not only limited researchers from acquiring a better understanding of the mechanical processes of micron scale “soft” objects but the door to various commercial applications has also been closed.

Novel invention:

The invention consists of a device for measuring a change in the pressure drop along a microfluidic channel. The device uses two channels: a test channel and an identical control channel, both producing downstream two parallel and adjacent streams of fluid. The two fluids are miscible and the liquids eventually meet forming a liquid interface. The liquid flowing through the control channel is dyed in order to visualize the interface downstream. This provides a way to measure pressure differences where a pressure drop along the test channel alters the position of the interface. The measurement of this deflection allows the pressure to be determined following a basic calibration procedure, and consequently it is possible to monitor the dynamic changes in the pressure drop in the test channel. The measurement is general and can be applied to any dynamical process changing the hydrodynamic resistance of the test channel relative to the control channel (chemical reactions, changing viscosity, adding of substance, etc). The inventors were able to follow the rupture of red blood cells in a microfluidic channel and correlate the rupture with changes in the pressure drop.

Commercial Applications:

The technology can be applied in any research or other setting where one wants to measure the pressure of a microfluidic channel. The technology could for example be used to identify various cells by continually measuring the pressure in the microfluidic channel which would create a pressure pattern. The created patterns could eventually be used to quickly identify various shapes of the cells and possibly the coupled disease. The technology could also be used to continuously measure the change of pressure as a result of chemical reactions or any other changes in microfluidic channels. Thus invention could the basis for a new microfluidic tool for research and diagnosis.

Intellectual Property Status: A PCT application is pending.

Publication: Abkarian et al., High-speed microfluidic differential manometer for cellular-scale hydrodynamics, PNAS, 103(3), 538-542, 2006.

Applications For Further Information Please Contact the Director of Business Development Daniel Behr Email: daniel_behr@harvard.edu Telephone: (617) 495-3067

Inventor(s): Stone, Howard A.

Type of Offer: Licensing

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