Modular microfluidics for gradient generation
This paper describes a modular approach to constructing microfluidic systems for the generation of gradients of arbitrary profiles. Unlike most current microfluidic-based systems that have integrated architectures, we design several basic component modules such as distributors, combiners, resistors and collectors and connect them into networks that produce gradients of any profile at will. Using the system as a platform we can generate arbitrary gradient profiles that are tunable in real time. The key advantage of this system is that its operation is based on prefabricated components that are relatively simple. Particularly for non-specialists, the modular microfluidic system is easier to implement and more versatile compared to single, integrated gradient generators. The disadvantages associated with this system is that the total amount of liquids used is rather large compared with single chip-based systems. The system would be useful in simulating environments in vivo, e.g., studying how cells respond to temporal and spatial stimuli.