Rapid prototyping of active microfluidic components based on magnetically modified elastomeric materials

William C. Jackson
Department of Chemical and Nuclear Engineering, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87131

Hy D. Trana)
Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87131

Michael J. O’Brien, Emmanuil Rabinovich, and Gabriel P. Lopezb)
Department of Chemical and Nuclear Engineering, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87131

͑Received 26 May 2000; accepted 2 January 2001͒ Replica molding of elastomeric materials has proven to be an extremely useful new technology for the formation of complex microfluidic systems. Recent demonstrations of convenient methods for production of such systems by simple, rapid methods that do not require expensive fabrication facilities have enabled the extensive use of microsystems in research and development into a host of new application fields. This report describes a simple new method for fabricating active elastomeric components in microfluidic systems that is based on deformation of elastic materials that have been impregnated or coated with magnetic materials. Computer controlled miniature electromagnets are used to activate switching valves within microfluidics systems. Similar fabrication techniques can be easily extended to construct complex, and potentially completely integrated, microfluidic systems containing active valves, pumps, injectors, mixers, and flow controllers. Preliminary results indicate fabrication of channels approximately 200 ␮m in width, with valves approximately 5 mm in size ͑including both valve chamber and valve actuator͒. The fabrication cycle time is on the order of one day using readily available benchtop equipment, and the valves seal hermetically against a 1.5 kPa back pressure. © 2001 American Vacuum Society. ͓DOI: 10.1116/1.1350840͔

I. INTRODUCTION Recent years have witnessed an explosion in the types and proposed uses of microfabricated fluidic systems, especially in bioanalytical applications.1–10 A significant impediment to the incorporation of microfluidic devices is the difficulty of designing, building, and testing microfluidic systems.11 We describe a convenient method for creating new microfluidic systems that incorporate active microfluidic components ͑namely valves͒ that combine magnetic actuation with elastomeric materials. This method can be easily extended to allow the rapid fabrication of a variety of other active microfluidic components such as pumps, injectors, flow controllers and mixers, thus allowing the rapid design, fabrication, testing and utilization of complete microfluidic systems ͑e.g., within a day͒. This work is an extension of methods for rapid prototyping of fluidic microchannels based on replica molding of elastomers, such as poly͑dimethyl siloxane͒ ͑PDMS͒.12–16 Microchannel networks with feature sizes down to ϳ5 ␮ m can easily be formed by replica-molding of threedimensional patterns formed by simple photolithographic methods.12,17 Silicone polymers such as PDMS have high compliance, high elongation, and good sealing properties, making them useful valving materials.18–20 Elastomer-based
a͒ b͒

valving strategies have recently been reported by Unger et al., who described pneumatic methods for deforming elastomeric microchannels to form microvalves and micropumps.21 By combining elastomers with magnetic materials and using electromagnets in the substrate, active valves can be fabricated. This approach is simpler and allows miniaturization, by removing the need for macroscopic, externally switched pneumatic supplies. II. THEORY Force production in electromagnetic actuators is either due to the interaction between the applied field and magnetic domains in a ferromagnetic material, or to the interaction between an applied field and an electric current. Magnetic fields may be generated by an electric current ͑e.g., a coil, or electromagnet͒, or may be intrinsic in a material ͑e.g., a permanent magnet͒. Modulation of force, or control of force is achieved through the control of current in an electromagnet. For ferromagnetic force, the magnetic pressure F/A ͑force per unit area͒ between an electromagnet and a ferromagnetic material is approximately F / A ϭ B 2 /2␮ 0 , where B is the flux density, and ␮ 0 is the permeability of free space. The flux density B can be estimated with magnetic circuit approximations or calculated using finite element analysis software.22 Saturation generally makes it difficult to obtain fields greater than 1 T;23 this sets a practical upper limit to approximately
©2001 American Vacuum Society 596

Electronic mail: tran@me.unm.edu Electronic mail: gplopez@unm.edu J. Vac. Sci. Technol. B 19„2…, MarÕApr 2001

596

1071-1023Õ2001Õ19„2…Õ596Õ4Õ$18.00

the region around the round protrusion was cut out of the cured PDMS elastomer. For our prototypes. micromachining.48 MPa. pouring. Round protrusions were formed at specific locations in the master ͑such that a ‘‘dimple’’ was subsequently formed in the molded elastomer͒ where the valves were desired. pouring the mixture over the master. Similar experiments using air pressure in the microfluidic system and a gas manometer indicated that a leak tight seal was formed. the valve was able to withstand a pressure increase of ϳ160 mm H2O ͑1. this was a piece of plexiglas containing electromagnets removed from commercial electrical relays. FIG. current ϳ0. 2. the master was used in two successive replicamolding procedures. Flow rate vs pressure across a valve: Valve is open. reusable after cleaning. For demonstration purposes. 1. Future versions may be made on printed or integrated circuits containing dozens of electromagnets.11 The substrate to which the PDMS microfluidic network is attached contains the electromagnets.087 T ͑870 G͒ at the surface of the PDMS base layer͔. When the valve is closed. Fisher Scientific. The pump was set to deliver constant flow. We have demonstrated that these procedures can be used to create leak-tight valves for controlling the flows of both liquids and gases. found that a rounded profile results in complete closure of elastomeric channels. 2 and 3͒ were formed by mixing 50% by weight iron powder ͑100 mesh.: Rapid prototyping of active microfluidic components 597 FIG. RadioShack Inc. Inc.21 To form an active microfluidic system. and magnetic circuit design͒ is ongoing.597 Jackson et al. we would expect to see less pressure. BioAnalytical Systems. The resulting elastomeric material exhibited a Young’s modulus of 0. using pneumatic actuation. Figure 2 presents pressure versus flow rate with the valve open. suggesting that the water serves as a significant heat sink for the valves. from a 9 V dc relay.24 Our experience agrees with that of Unger et al. there is no flow with pressures up to 1. the circuit board was spin coated at 1000 rpm with a layer ϳ25 ␮m thick of PDMS and cured as described above. In separate tests at 50 and 125 ␮l/min. To seal the elastomeric material to the board.5:1 prepolymer to curing agent.5 kPa. the pump was turned off with back pressure in the valve to determine if the valve sealed leak tight. The valves described below ͑Figs. and the magnetic circuits are not optimized. The inlet to the PDMS microfluidic system was connected to a microsyringe pump ͑BabyBee.25 Subsequently. or rapid prototyping. an aluminum master was machined with raised channels of 250 ␮m in width. Schematic diagram of the fabrication steps used to assemble an active microfluidic network containing a magnetically actuated elastomeric microvalve. A tee was placed between the pump and the inlet to the PDMS system such that an open tube manometer could be attached to the flow stream. We have successfully used materials with magnetically hard materials ͑Ne–Fe–B powder͒ or magnetically soft materials ͑iron powder͒. Inc.͒ was used. since the actuator needs to work against the elastomer modulus.. corresponding to a measured magnetic field of 0. if necessary. 400 kPa of actuation pressure. and curing at 70 °C for 2 h. cured hybrid elastomeric replica was then peeled away JVST B . geometry. This more compliant material can be made into a magnetic valve by either mixing in or covering it with magnetic material. flow rate of 250 ␮L/min with pressure drop of 0. 6 V. pressure built up behind the valve.15 A. The substrate is. The final.͒. The coated board and the bottom of the elastomeric replica were then subjected to a low pressure argon plasma immediately before aligning and bonding them. and refilled with a more compliant material ͑32. The PDMS may be disposed of. Further optimization of the valve design ͑magnetic particle loading. In practice.5 kPa͒ before the PDMS failed. and will likely improve the performance. The first was conducted as described elsewhere6 using Dow Corning Sylgard 184 prepolymer and curing agent in a ratio of 18:1.Microelectronics and Nanometer Structures from the master and placed on a circuit board containing electromagnets that were aligned with the iron-containing dimples. resulting in an elastomer with Young’s modulusϭ0. heat dissipation. EXPERIMENTAL PROCEDURE Figure 1 schematically depicts the fabrication steps that are used to assemble an active microfluidic system that includes magnetically actuated elastomeric microvalves. Replica masters may be easily fabricated through photolithographic methods. It was also noted that the temperature of the electromagnets ͑due to resistive heating͒ was much higher when the working fluid was air. . of course.͒ with the elastomer precursor solution. III.55 kPa. This suggests that the valves function for both gases and liquids. Elastomeric PDMS loaded with iron particles ͑50% by weight͒ was used to form the valve and a commercial electromagnet ͑2500 turns. When the valve was closed ͓max. and curing as described above. who.29 MPa͒.

The signals from the lock-in amplifier and the CCD camera were collected on a PC. No. Similar tests were also conducted with PDMS membranes covered with a permanent magnetic material. FIG. Sci. The CCD camera ͑SenSys. activation of the microvalve resulted in complete stoppage of flow of both water and air. Figure 3 shows a schematic of the microfluidic system used to conduct this demonstration. The laser is chopped. 3͑A͒ and 3͑B͒. ͑D͒ Fluorescence intensity measurements as a function of time obtained using a PMT/lock-in amplifier based detection system.598 Jackson et al. 2. The LabVIEW based control program was designed to allow synchronized actuation of each magnetic valve in the T-flow system such that only one valve would be open at any given time. The microfluidic network is positioned on the objective table to obtain good alignment of the laser beam with the outlet channel of the ‘‘T. One inlet was connected to a pure water supply and the other to water containing 5 ␮M fluorescein isothiocyanate ͑FITC. The microchannel and microvalve light output is collected with a photomultiplier tube ͑PMT͒ connected to a lock-in amplifier.’’ A lock-in amplifier/chopper ͑Stanford Research SR810 and SR450͒ monitors the level of fluorescence emission. cycle time and duty cycle of each electromagnet.͒ to allow independent control of current amplitude. parabolic boundary region is evident in the micrograph that is characteristic of laminar flow and Taylor dispersion of the dye solution at the interface of the two flows.’’ Each inlet of the ‘‘T’’ flow system was driven by an external peristaltic micropump. Vol. SIGMA-Aldrich Inc. 3. Photometrics Inc.: Rapid prototyping of active microfluidic components 598 FIG.26 Flow and stoppage was measured by using an argon laser ͑488 nm͒ to induce fluorescence in the dye. Vac.27 We further tested the computer-controlled valves in long term cycling experiments. Again. we chose to demonstrate the utility of the microvalves in controlling the flow of fluorescent liquids. Schematic of the experimental apparatus. such that when the FITC valve was open ͑or closed͒ .’’ The detection system consists of a microscope ͑Nikon DIAPHOT 300͒ with an attached photomultiplier tube and CCD camera. The control system was programmed to switch the two valves in the T-flow system every 1 s in a synchronous manner. such as neodymium alloy. A chopped argon laser illuminates the system.͒ allows imaging of the microfluidic channel. ͑A͒. A syringe pump pumps dye solution into a PDMS microchannel with an embedded magnetic layer. Thus. B. The microfluidic network constructed was a ‘‘T. ͑B͒ Top and side views of a schematic of a ‘‘T’’ flow system used to demonstrate the action of two synchronized microvalves. Inc. We have interests in the development of new optics-based microbioanalytical systems. and the beam launched into the outlet of the ‘‘T. and Fig. A diffuse. An electronic control system was assembled using LabVIEW software ͑National Instruments. ͑C͒ A laser-induced fluorescence micrograph of the interface between two plugs of fluid formed by switching the valves.͒. passage of dye through the channel is proportional to the electromagnet below the microfluidic channel/valve is controlled using LabVIEW. MarÕApr 2001 shows a schematic of the detection system. and the passage of dye through the channel is also measured through the PMT using LabVIEW. 19. 4. 4 J. Technol. Figure 3͑C͒ shows a fluorescence micrograph obtained after switching off the flow of fluorophore solution and switching on the flow of pure water. Figure 3͑C͒ shows intensity versus time measurements for the FITC/pure water system shown in Figs.

8 A. 346 ͑1999͒. M. H. 21 M. Bui. The methods of fabrication of these active microfluidic systems are amenable to rapid design and implementation in ordinary laboratory and production facilities. 4 S. p.. J. A. Top. A. Kopp. H. Bischoff. E. During portions of the cycles corresponding to water flow. Tien. M. Weigl. and S. Langmuir 14.599 Jackson et al. and D. 4781 ͑1999͒. and G. Kenis. L. R. Manz. Schueller. J. Quake. Science 280. Ismagilov. it functions well at flow rates on the order of 100 ␮L/min. 211 ͑1999͒. 27 G.͒ or a photomultiplier tube and a lock-in amplifier detection system. Permanent Magnet Materials and their Application ͑Cambridge University Press. Ansys Inc. Proc. A. Takayama. 22 See. J. H. Schmid. and J. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This work was funded by the Office of Naval Research through the Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative ͑N00014-95-1-1315͒ and the National Institutes of Health through the Bioengineering Consortium Program ͑1 R24 GM60799-01͒. H. The flow system was placed on a microscope stage and fluorescence detection was accomplished through use of either a thermoelectrically cooled CCD camera ͑Sensys. M. C. U. and G. Science 283. 96. K. Kenis. Quake. Yang. J. 2225 ͑1998͒. Xia and G.. F. 1979͒. J. 25 Young’s modulus was estimated by measuring strain vs stress of macroscopic samples of PDMS prepared under similar conditions as those used to form the microfluidic system.Microelectronics and Nanometer Structures . Photometrics. Bosshard. 101 ͑1998͒. Anal. The fluorescence measurements were taken at approximately the same location in the fluidic system as used to obtain the fluorescence micrograph. Actuators A 64. T. Delamarche. Ostuni. by combining a series of valves͒. Unger.A. 1733 ͑1997͒. Chiem. Liang. McKnight. B. 15 Y. 163 ͑1998͒. Ed. Hosokawa.com. PA 15317. M. Fujii. Nature Biotech. R. Anal. Ismagilov. Fu. Ingber. Schueller. and A. H. F. JVST B . 75 ͑1999͒. Delamarche. Duffy. A.: Rapid prototyping of active microfluidic components 1 2 599 the water valve was closed ͑or open͒. R. T. J. McDonald. E. Engl. and injectors. New York. J. J. Biomech. N. T. 5 C. 6575 ͑1999͒. 71. E. Duffy. 113 ͑2000͒. 121. Thorsen. Chem. Shoji. Scherer. Grosjean. These demonstrations suggest that the fabrication methods used here can be extended to form a variety of other active microfluidic components including peristaltic pumps ͑e. www. Chem. Whitesides. ANSYS. 70. Chem. Campbell. A. Takayama. A. Scherer. Int. Chem. Kane. Design optimization is ongoing to determine the ultimate working specifications of these components. Curr. Whitesides. Electrophoresis 18.. Xu. E. N. Endo. and G. T. 17. Schmid. Tang. Natl. Ostuni. 24 Protrusions on the replica master were simply made by placing a droplet of glue at a point on the replica corresponding to a microchannel. Palmacci. Deng.S. M. F. Sci. S. Bloomstein. Harrison. Sens. Mello. Becker and C. 1046 ͑1998͒. and P. The fluorescence intensity shows a regular periodic cycling due to the switching of the flow streams. Brittain. B. S. J. C. C. Chemical Reactor Analysis and Design ͑Wiley. Chem. Angew. 6 P. Colyer. A. C. Young. 9. Ho. 18 K. 23 P. Whitesides. Science 288. Whitesides. Electrophoresis 21. 19 X. and G. R. CONCLUSIONS These results clearly demonstrate the possibility of magnetically actuated microvalves based on magnetically impregnated elastomeric materials. D. and G. 83 ͑1999͒. M. Whitesides. Froment and K. Gartner. H. R. Ramsey. 3 B. 7 B. Yager. 5545 ͑1999͒. 3͑C͔͒. Acad. and I. for example. Jacobson. D. 11 D. 10 S. Inc. Tai. M. T. 12 ͑2000͒. Science 285. J. M. Whitesides. P. IV. 14 S. Acta 131. 16 D. While the magnetic elastomer valve as currently described does not have high pressure capability. M. Science 276. the fluorescence intensity does not go below ϳ55% of the maximum intensity because of the dispersion of the dye between plugs and because of the adsorption of dye to the PDMS walls and collection of dye at imperfections in the PDMS walls ͓see Fig. Kriebel. Biebuyck.21 A variety of other elastomeric or flexible materials may be used in concert with a variety of magnetic materials. Michel. 779 ͑1997͒. 194. B. 71. 20 A. Arnold. T. Microeng. 4455 ͑1999͒. O. P. H. A. New York. Whitesides. Yager. Y. and H. J. M. 37. A. 1109 ͑1999͒. Anal. 17 T. M.T. 26 Excitation of fluorescence in the channel was accomplished by illumination of the microchannel with an argon ion laser ͑488 nm͒. 620. J. and H. and S. 2 ͑1999͒. C.g. Eng. and S. 2363 ͑1999͒. Mayes. McDonald. This cycling procedure was maintained for more than one thousand cycles with no evidence of valve fatigue. Langmuir 15. Mikrochim. 9 M. Bernard. 4974 ͑1998͒. Y. 1994͒. C. 275 Technology Dr. E. Biebuyck. M. Canonsburg. S. 12 E. C. O. 13 A. U. C. 550 ͑1998͒. which is useful in analytical systems. Spence. Bernard. and G. Micromech. J. Weigl and P. Biomaterials 20.ansys. T. Chou. F. H. mixers. and allowing the glue to harden. and C.

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