Stimulus-responsive polymers and other functional polymer surfaces as components in glass microfluidic channels
The integration of smart stimulus-responsive polymers as functional elements within microfluidic devices has greatly improved the performance capabilities of controlled fluid delivery. For their use as actuators in microfluidic systems, reversible expansion and shrinking are unique mechanisms which can be utilized as both passive and active fluid control elements to establish gate and valve functions (passive) and pumping elements (active). Various constituents in microfluidic glass channels based on stimulus-responsive elements have been reported based on pH-responsive, thermoresponsive and photoresponsive coatings. Fluid control and robust performance have been demonstrated in microfluidic devices in a number of studies. Here we give a brief overview of selected examples from the literature reporting on the use of stimulus response polymers as active or passive elements for fluid control in microfluidic devices, with specific emphasis on glass-based devices. The remaining challenges include improving switching times and achieving local addressability of the responsive constituent. We envisage tackling these challenges by utilizing redox-responsive polymers which offer fast and reversible switching and local addressability in combination with nanofabricated electrodes.