This critical review is motivated by an increasing interest of the microfluidics community in developing complete Lab-on-a-Chip solutions based on thin and flexible films (Lab-on-a-Foil). Those implementations benefit from a broad range of fabrication methods that are partly adopted from well-established macroscale processes or are completely new and promising. In addition, thin and flexible foils enable various features like low thermal resistance for efficient thermocycling or integration of easily deformable chambers paving the way for new means of on-chip reagent storage or fluid transport. From an economical perspective, Lab-on-a-Foil systems are characterised by low material consumption and often low-cost materials which are attractive for cost-effective high-volume fabrication of self-contained disposable chips. The first part of this review focuses on available materials, fabrication processes and approaches for integration of microfluidic functions including liquid control and transport as well as storage and release of reagents. In the second part, an analysis of the state of Lab-on-a-Foil applications is provided with a special focus on nucleic acid analysis, immunoassays, cell-based assays and home care testing. We conclude that the Lab-on-a-Foil approach is very versatile and significantly expands the toolbox for the development of Lab-on-a-Chip solutions.
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