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Issue 20, 2014
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A smartphone controlled handheld microfluidic liquid handling system

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Microfluidics and lab-on-a-chip technologies have made it possible to manipulate small volume liquids with unprecedented resolution, automation and integration. However, most current microfluidic systems still rely on bulky off-chip infrastructures such as compressed pressure sources, syringe pumps and computers to achieve complex liquid manipulation functions. Here, we present a handheld automated microfluidic liquid handling system controlled by a smartphone, which is enabled by combining elastomeric on-chip valves and a compact pneumatic system. As a demonstration, we show that the system can automatically perform all the liquid handling steps of a bead-based HIV1 p24 sandwich immunoassay on a multi-layer PDMS chip without any human intervention. The footprint of the system is 6 × 10.5 × 16.5 cm, and the total weight is 829 g including battery. Powered by a 12.8 V 1500 mAh Li battery, the system consumed 2.2 W on average during the immunoassay and lasted for 8.7 h. This handheld microfluidic liquid handling platform is generally applicable to many biochemical and cell-based assays requiring complex liquid manipulation and sample preparation steps such as FISH, PCR, flow cytometry and nucleic acid sequencing. In particular, the integration of this technology with read-out biosensors may help enable the realization of the long-sought Tricorder-like handheld in vitro diagnostic (IVD) systems.

Graphical abstract: A smartphone controlled handheld microfluidic liquid handling system

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Article information

21 Feb 2014
22 Aug 2014
First published
22 Aug 2014

Lab Chip, 2014,14, 4085-4092
Article type
Author version available

A smartphone controlled handheld microfluidic liquid handling system

B. Li, L. Li, A. Guan, Q. Dong, K. Ruan, R. Hu and Z. Li, Lab Chip, 2014, 14, 4085
DOI: 10.1039/C4LC00227J

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