Paper-based passive pumps to generate controllable whole blood flow through microfluidic devices†
Fluid manipulation in microfluidic systems is often controlled by active pumps that are relatively large in size and require external power sources which limit their portability and use in limited-resource settings. In this work, portable, detachable, low-cost, and power-free paper pumps with engineered capillary tubes (referred to as “grooves”) that can passively drive viscous fluids based on capillary action are presented. The proposed grooved paper pumps are capable of generating a controllable flow of complex biofluids within microfluidic devices with minimal user intervention and no external power sources. The pumping performance of grooved paper pumps in this study is tested with undiluted, unseparated whole blood samples – demonstrating successful transport of approximately 150 μL of blood within an average time of 5 minutes to 50 minutes, depending on their design parameters. Results for the flow rate of grooved paper pumps indicate that the number of grooves created within the porous paper determines the profile of the generated flow rate. The experimental data also show that as the number of grooves in the pumps is increased, the flow rate approaches a constant value for the entire duration of pumping before the pump becomes saturated. The promising performance of grooved paper pumps with whole blood offers potential applications of these small, disposable pumps in point-of-care diagnostics in which time is crucial and access to external power is limited.