We report a fast and simple prototyping method to fabricate polymer-based microfluidic chips using Direct Laser Plotting (DLP) technique, by which various functional micro-structures can be realized within minutes, in a mask-free and out-of-cleanroom fashion. A 2D Computer-Aid-Design (CAD) software was employed to layout the required micro-structures and micro-channels, a CO₂ laser plotter was then used to construct the microstructures. The desired patterns can be plotted directly on PDMS substrates and bio-compatible polymer films by manipulating the strength and density of laser pulses. With the DLP technique, chip-embedded micro-electrodes, micro-mixers and 3D microfluidic chips with 5 layers, which normally require several days of work in a cleanroom facility, can be fabricated in minutes in common laboratory. This novel method can produce microfluidic channels with average feature size of 100μm, while feature size of 50μm or smaller is achievable by making use of the interference effect from laser impulsion. In this report, we present the optimized parameters for successful fabrication of 3D microchannels, micro-mixers and microfluidic chips for protein concentration measurements (Bovine Serum Albumine (BSA) test), and a novel procedure to pattern flexible embedding electrodes on PDMS-based microfluidic chips. DLP offers a convenient and low cost alternative to conventional microfluidic channel fabrication technique which relies on complicated and hazardous soft lithography process.
We report on a droplet-producing microfluidic system with electrical impedance-based detection. The microfluidic devices are made of polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) and glass with thin film electrodes connected to an impedance-monitoring circuit. Immiscible fluids containing the hydrophobic and hydrophilic phases are injected with syringe pumps and spontaneously break into water-in-oil droplet trains. When a droplet passes between a pair of electrodes in a medium having different electrical conductivity, the resulting impedance change signals the presence of the particle for closed-loop feedback during processing. The circuit produces a digital pulse for input into a computer control system. The droplet detector allows estimation of a droplet's arrival time at the microfluidic chip outlet for dispensing applications. Droplet detection is required in applications that count, sort, and direct microfluidic droplets. Because of their low cost and simplicity, microelectrode-based droplet detection techniques should find applications in digital microfluidics and in three-dimensional printing technology for rapid prototyping and biotechnology.