Researchers develop new methods to create microfluidic devices with fluoropolymers

February 8, 2019, Singapore University of Technology and Design
Representative fluoropolymer microchannels that are filled with water containing aqueous dyes. Credit: SUTD

A wide range of applications are based on microfluidic devices made of silicone rubbers such as polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), including materials synthesis, separation and sorting, diagnostics and bioanalysis. The popularity of PDMS in academic laboratories is due to the simplicity of the fabrication and well-characterised properties of PDMS. However, PDMS is not compatible with strong organic solvents, which quickly swell silicone-based materials. To this end, microfluidic channels possessing chemical and solvent compatibility are desirable.

A research team from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), led by Assistant Professor Michinao Hashimoto, developed a simple method to fabricate microchannels using fluoropolymers—a general class of polymers including Teflon that are highly inert against the exposure to chemicals and solvents. The research group applied xurography, a method of digital fabrication to cut films with a motion-controlled razor blade to create stencils. Via this technique, they cut films of fluoropolymers and heat-pressed them to form microchannels. It takes less than one hour to make microchannels from designing to assembling using this method.

The research team has identified proper conditions of heat pressing (i.e. temperature, time and pressure) for two common fluoropolymers: polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) and fluorinated ethylene propylene (FEP). Furthermore, the team confirmed the resistance of the fluoropolymer channels to a set of organic solvents that would be incompatible with typical devices fabricated in PDMS.

Principal investigator Dr. Hashimoto said, "This work is the first demonstration to rapidly fabricate using fluoropolymers. Microchannels consisting of fluoropolymers can be useful in performing organic synthesis of materials and drugs as well as regulating adhesion of biological molecules, cells and bacteria. This method is extremely simple, and we believe it can be performed by literally any researcher—including non-engineers—for various applications that require the inert and non-reactive properties of the channels."

This new prototyping has been published in Biomicrofluidics, a reputable journal focused on research in unique microfluidic and nanofluidic techniques. An SUTD visiting students (Takuma Hizawa) and two postdoctoral researchers (Atsushi Takano, Pravien Parthiban) participated in this project together with the senior authors (Prof. Eiji Iwase, Waseda University, Japan, and Prof. Patrick Doyle, MIT, USA).

Explore further: Give it the plasma treatment: Strong adhesion without adhesives

More information: Takuma Hizawa et al, Rapid prototyping of fluoropolymer microchannels by xurography for improved solvent resistance, Biomicrofluidics (2018). DOI: 10.1063/1.5051666

Related Stories

Flexible color displays with microfluidics

August 16, 2018

A new study published on Microsystems and Nanoengineering by Kazuhiro Kobayashi and Hiroaki Onoe details the development of a flexible and reflective multicolor display system that does not require continued energy supply ...

Saving the planet with flexible electronics

June 27, 2017

"My research on organic photovoltaic (OPVs) devices reflects my fascination with electronic gadgets and concerns about the environment," says Varun Vohra, tenure-track assistant professor at the Department of Engineering ...

Recommended for you

Archaeologists discover Incan tomb in Peru

February 16, 2019

Peruvian archaeologists discovered an Incan tomb in the north of the country where an elite member of the pre-Columbian empire was buried, one of the investigators announced Friday.

Where is the universe hiding its missing mass?

February 15, 2019

Astronomers have spent decades looking for something that sounds like it would be hard to miss: about a third of the "normal" matter in the Universe. New results from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory may have helped them ...

What rising seas mean for local economies

February 15, 2019

Impacts from climate change are not always easy to see. But for many local businesses in coastal communities across the United States, the evidence is right outside their doors—or in their parking lots.

The friendly extortioner takes it all

February 15, 2019

Cooperating with other people makes many things easier. However, competition is also a characteristic aspect of our society. In their struggle for contracts and positions, people have to be more successful than their competitors ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.