SAW-based fluid atomization using mass-producible chip devices†
Surface acoustic wave (SAW)-based fluid atomizers are ideally suited to generate micrometer-sized droplets without any moving parts or nozzles. Versatile application fields can be found for instance in biomedical, aerosol or thin film technology, including medical inhalators or particle deposition for advanced surface treatment. Such atomizers also show great potential for on-chip integration and can lead to economic production of hand-held and even disposable devices, with either a single functionality or integrated in more complex superior systems. However, this potential was limited in the past by fluid supply mechanisms inadequate for mass production, accuracy and reliability. In this work, we briefly discuss existing fluid supply methods and demonstrate a straightforward new approach suited for reliable and cost-effective mass-scale manufacturing of SAW atomizer chips. Our approach is based on a fluid supply at the boundary of the acoustic beam via SU-8 microchannels produced by a novel one-layer/double-exposure photolithography method. Using this technique, we demonstrate precise and stable fluid atomization with almost ideal aerosol plume geometry from a dynamically stabilized thin fluid film. Additionally, we demonstrate the possibility of in situ altering the droplet size distribution by controlling the amount of fluid available in the active region of the chip.