Fabrication and laser patterning of polystyrene optical oxygen sensor films for lab-on-a-chip applications
We present a novel and simple method for patterning oxygen-sensitive polystyrene thin films and demonstrate its potential for integration with microfluidic lab-on-a-chip devices. Optical oxygen sensing films composed of polystyrene with an embedded luminescent oxygen-sensitive dye present a convenient option for the measurement of oxygen levels in microfluidic and lab-on-a-chip devices; however, patterning and integrating the films with poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS) microfluidic devices has proven difficult due to a residue after dry etch patterning that inhibits subsequent PDMS bonding. Our new method uses mask-less laser ablation by a commercial laser ablation system to define the outline of the structures and subsequent bulk film removal by aqueous lift-off. Because the bulk film is peeled or lifted off of the substrate rather than etched, the process is compatible with standard PDMS plasma bonding. We used ToF-SIMS analysis to investigate how laser ablation facilitates this fabrication process as well as why dry etching polystyrene inhibits PDMS plasma bonding. The results of this analysis showed evidence of chemical species formed during the laser ablation and dry etching processes that can produce these effects. Our new method's mask-less nature, simplicity, speed, and compatibility with PDMS bonding make it ideally suited for single-use lab-on-a-chip applications. To demonstrate the method's compatibility with PDMS microfluidics, we also present a demonstration of the sensors' integration into a microfluidic oxygen gradient generator device.