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Micro flow control using thermally responsive polymer solutions Bazargan, Vahid


Microfluidics refers to devices and methods for controlling and manipulating fluid flows at length scales less than a millimeter. Miniaturization of a laboratory to a small device, usually termed as lab-on-a-chip, is an advanced technology that integrates a microfluidic system including channels, mixers, reservoirs, pumps and valves on a micro scale chip and can manipulate very small sample volumes of fluids. While several flow control concepts for microfluidic devices have been developed to date, here flow control concepts based on thermally responsive polymer solutions are presented. In particular, flow control concepts base on the thermally triggered reversible phase change of aqueous solutions of the polymer Pluronic will be discussed. Selective heating of small regions of microfluidic channels, which leads to localized gel formation in these channels and reversible channel blockage, will be used to control a membrane valve that controls flow in a separate channel. This new technology will allow generating inexpensive portable bioanalysis tools where microvalve actuation occurs simply through heaters at a constant pressure source without a need for large external pressure control systems as is currently the case. Furthermore, a concept for controlled cross-channel transport of particles and potentially cells is presented that relies on the continuous regeneration of a gel wall at the diffusive interface of two co-streaming fluids in a microfluidic channel.

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