An electrochemically driven poly(dimethylsiloxane) microfluidic actuator: oxygen sensing and programmable flows and pH gradients†
We describe the fabrication and performance of an integrated microelectrochemical reactor—a design possessing utility for multiple applications that include electrochemical sensing, the generation and manipulation of in-channel microfluidic pH gradients, and fluid actuation and flow. The device architecture is based on a three-electrode electrochemical cell design that incorporates a Pt interdigitated array (IDA) working (WE), a Pt counter (CE), and Ag pseudo-reference (RE) electrodes within a microfluidic network in which the WE is fully immersed in a liquid electrolyte confined in the channels. The microchannels are made from a conventional poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS) elastomer, which serves also as a thin gas-permeable membrane through which gaseous reactants in the external ambient environment are supplied to the working electrode by diffusion. Due to the high permeability of oxygen through PDMS, the microfluidic cell supports significantly (>order of magnitude) higher current densities in the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) than those measured in conventional (quiescent) electrochemical cells for the same electrode areas. We demonstrate in this work that, when operated at constant potential under mass transport control, the device can be utilized as a membrane-covered oxygen sensor, the response of which can be tuned by varying the thickness of the PDMS membrane. Depending on the experimental conditions under which the electrochemical ORR is performed, the data establish that the device can be operated as both a programmable pH gradient generator and a microfluidic pump.