Manipulating the inter pillar gap in pillar array ultra-thin layer planar chromatography platforms†
An advantage of separation platforms based on deterministic micro- and nano-fabrications, relative to traditional systems based on packed beds of particles, is the exquisite control of all morphological parameters. For example, with planar platforms based on lithographically-prepared pillar arrays, the size, shape, height, geometric arrangement, and inter pillar gaps can be independently adjusted. Since the inter pillar gap is expected to be important in determining resistance to mass transfer in the mobile phase as well as the flow rate, which influences the mass transfer effect and axial diffusion, we herein study the effect of reducing inter pillar gaps on capillary action-based flow and band dispersion. Atomic layer deposition is used to narrow the gap between the pillars for photo-lithographically defined pillar arrays. The plate height of gap-adjusted arrays is modeled based on predicted and observed flow rates. A reduction in the flow rate with smaller gaps hinders the efficiency in the modeled case and is correlated with actual separations. A conclusion is drawn that simultaneously reducing both the gap and the pillar diameter is the best approach in terms of improving the chromatographic efficiency.