Reversible thermo-pneumatic valves on centrifugal microfluidic platforms†
Centrifugal microfluidic systems utilize a conventional spindle motor to automate parallel biochemical assays on a single microfluidic disk. The integration of complex, sequential microfluidic procedures on these platforms relies on robust valving techniques that allow for the precise control and manipulation of fluid flow. The ability of valves to consistently return to their former conditions after each actuation plays a significant role in the real-time manipulation of fluidic operations. In this paper, we introduce an active valving technique that operates based on the deflection of a latex film with the potential for real-time flow manipulation in a wide range of operational spinning speeds. The reversible thermo-pneumatic valve (RTPV) seals or reopens an inlet when a trapped air volume is heated or cooled, respectively. The RTPV is a gas-impermeable valve composed of an air chamber enclosed by a latex membrane and a specially designed liquid transition chamber that enables the efficient usage of the applied thermal energy. Inputting thermo-pneumatic (TP) energy into the air chamber deflects the membrane into the liquid transition chamber against an inlet, sealing it and thus preventing fluid flow. From this point, a centrifugal pressure higher than the induced TP pressure in the air chamber reopens the fluid pathway. The behaviour of this newly introduced reversible valving system on a microfluidic disk is studied experimentally and theoretically over a range of rotational frequencies from 700 RPM to 2500 RPM. Furthermore, adding a physical component (e.g., a hemispherical rubber element) to induce initial flow resistance shifts the operational range of rotational frequencies of the RTPV to more than 6000 RPM. An analytical solution for the cooling of a heated RTPV on a spinning disk is also presented, which highlights the need for the future development of time-programmable RTPVs. Moreover, the reversibility and gas impermeability of the RTPV in the microfluidic networks are validated on a microfluidic disk designed for performing liquid circulation. Finally, an array of RTPVs is integrated into a microfluidic cartridge to enable sequential aliquoting for the conversion of dengue virus RNA to cDNA and the preparation of PCR reaction mixtures.