Fluidic low pass filter for hydrodynamic flow stabilization in microfluidic environments
Fluctuations in flow rate invariably occur in microfluidic devices. This fluidic instability results in a deteriorating performance and the suspension of their unique functions occasionally. In this study, a fluidic-LPF (low pass filter), which is composed of an ACU (air compliance unit) and a FCSP (fluidic channel with high fluidic resistance for sufficient preload), has been proposed for providing the stabilization of hydrodynamic flow in microfluidic devices. To investigate the characteristics of various fluidic networks including our fluidic-LPF, we used a parametric identification method to estimate the time constants via a transient response that was based on a discrete parameter model. In addition, we propose the use of a pulsation index (PI) to quantify the fluctuations in flow rate. We verified the formula for PI derived herein by varying individually both the periods and the air compliance volumes in the ACU, both theoretically and experimentally. We found that the PI depended strongly on either the time constants or the periods of the flow rates at the inlet. Additionally, the normalized differences between the experimental results and the theoretical estimations were less than 6%, which shows that the proposed formula for PI can provide an accurate quantification of the fluctuations in flow, and estimate the parametric effects. Finally, we have successfully demonstrated that our fluidic-LPF can regulate fluctuations in the flow at extremely low flow rates (∼ 10 μL h−1) and can also control severe fluidic fluctuations (PI = 0.67) with excessively long periods (100 s) via a microfluidic viscometer. We therefore believe that the stabilization of hydrodynamic flow using a fluidic-LPF could be used easily and extensively with a range of microfluidic platforms that require constant flow rates.