Flow control in a laminate capillary-driven microfluidic device†
Capillary-driven microfluidic devices are of significant interest for on-site analysis because they do not require external pumps and can be made from inexpensive materials. Among capillary-driven devices, those made from paper and polyester film are among the most common and have been used in a wide array of applications. However, since capillary forces are the only driving force, flow is difficult to control, and passive flow control methods such as changing the geometry must be used to accomplish various analytical applications. This study presents several new flow control methods that can be utilized in a laminate capillary-driven microfluidic device to increase available functionality. First, we introduce push and burst valve systems that can stop and start flow. These valves can stop flow for >30 min and be opened by either pressing the channel or inflowing other fluids to the valve region. Next, we propose flow control methods for Y-shaped channels that enable more functions. In one example, we demonstrate the ability to accurately control concentration to create laminar, gradient, and fully mixed flows. In a second example, flow velocity in the main channel is controlled by adjusting the length of the inlet channel. In addition, the flow velocity is constant as the inlet length increases. Finally, the flow velocity in the Y-shaped device as a function of channel height and fluid properties such as viscosity and surface tension was examined. As in previous studies on capillary-driven channels, the flow rate was affected by each parameter. The fluidic control tools presented here will enable new designs and functions for low cost point of need assays across a variety of fields.