Fit-to-Flow (F2F) interconnects: Universal reversible adhesive-free microfluidic adaptors for lab-on-a-chip systems
World-to-chip (macro-to-micro) interface continues to be one of the most complicated, ineffective, and unreliable components in the development of emerging lab-on-a-chip systems involving integrated microfluidic operations. A number of irreversible (e.g., adhesive gluing) and reversible techniques (e.g., press fitting) have attempted to provide dedicated fluidic passage from standard tubing to miniature on-chip devices, none of which completely addresses the above concerns. In this paper, we present standardized adhesive-free microfluidic adaptors, referred to as Fit-to-Flow (F2F) Interconnects, to achieve reliable hermetic seal, high-density tube packing, self-aligned plug-in, reworkable connectivity, straightforward scalability and expandability, and applicability to broad lab-on-a-chip platforms; analogous to the modular plug-and-play USB architecture employed in modern electronics. Specifically, two distinct physical packaging mechanisms are applied, with one utilizing induced tensile stress in elastomeric socket to establish reversible seal and the other using negative pressure to provide on demand vacuum shield, both of which can be adapted to a variety of experimental configurations. The non-leaking performance (up to 336 kPa) along with high tube-packing density (of 1 tube/mm2) and accurate self-guided alignment (of 10 μm) have been characterized. In addition, a 3D microfluidic mixer and a 6-level chemical gradient generator paired with the corresponding F2F Interconnects have been devised to illustrate the applicability of the universal fluidic connections to classic lab-on-a-chip operations.