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A one-step strategy for ultra-fast and low-cost mass production of plastic membrane microfluidic chi

Chong Hu, Sheng Lin, Wanbo Li, Han Sun, Yangfan Chen, Chiu-Wing Chan, Chung-Hang Leung, Ma Dik-Lung*, Hongkai Wu* and Kangning Ren*, A One-Step Strategy for Ultra-Fast and Low Cost Mass Production of Plastic Membrane Microfluidic Chips, Lab Chip, 2016, 16, 3909-3918. (featured as journal front outside cover)

This paper was recently published on Lab Chip and selected as the cover page story.

While paper-based microfluidics has made nice progress in applications with open-channel designs, the cost of device production and supporting apparatuses has still been a major hurdle to the commercial implementation of sealed-channel microfluidic technologies. In this work, we developed an ultra-fast and cost-effective method for fabricating flexible microfluidic chips with plastic membranes. The mechanism of the method is different from previous methods for microfabricating plastics, e.g., hot embossing or thermal forming. With this method, we could fabricate plastic microfluidic chips very rapidly (within 12 sec/ piece) at an extremely low cost (less than 0.01$/ piece).

In this article, we explained why the method could achieve such performance and why our method is novel. In general, two key points made the method possible: (1) a unique strategy to create microchannels and bond the channel roofs in a single step; (2) a stamp made in Teflon, prepared using our published method. The production is a green process with neither chemical reaction nor solvent involved.

The produced chips could realize normal microfluidic functions such as valving, droplets generation, electrophoretic separation; they also offer additional functions such as on-chip peristaltic pumping and controlled delivery of desired volume of liquid, without the need of external pumps or compressed air. These plastic membrane chips are more resistant to the evaporation of solvents and fouling of small molecules as compared to PDMS chips. While the fabrication scheme would be inspiring for the fields of microfabrication and functional materials, this method holds great potential in promoting the commercial implementation of microfluidic systems.

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