Microfluidic lab-on-a-chip platforms: requirements, characteristics and applications
This critical review summarizes developments in microfluidic platforms that enable the miniaturization, integration, automation and parallelization of (bio-)chemical assays (see S. Haeberle and R. Zengerle, Lab Chip, 2007, 7, 1094–1110, for an earlier review). In contrast to isolated application-specific solutions, a microfluidic platform provides a set of fluidic unit operations, which are designed for easy combination within a well-defined fabrication technology. This allows the easy, fast, and cost-efficient implementation of different application-specific (bio-)chemical processes. In our review we focus on recent developments from the last decade (2000s). We start with a brief introduction into technical advances, major market segments and promising applications. We continue with a detailed characterization of different microfluidic platforms, comprising a short definition, the functional principle, microfluidic unit operations, application examples as well as strengths and limitations of every platform. The microfluidic platforms in focus are lateral flow tests, linear actuated devices, pressure driven laminar flow, microfluidic large scale integration, segmented flow microfluidics, centrifugal microfluidics, electrokinetics, electrowetting, surface acoustic waves, and dedicated systems for massively parallel analysis. This review concludes with the attempt to provide a selection scheme for microfluidic platforms which is based on their characteristics according to key requirements of different applications and market segments. Applied selection criteria comprise portability, costs of instrument and disposability, sample throughput, number of parameters per sample, reagent consumption, precision, diversity of microfluidic unit operations and the flexibility in programming different liquid handling protocols (295 references).