Caterpillar locomotion-inspired valveless pneumatic micropump using a single teardrop-shaped elastomeric membrane†
This paper presents a microfluidic pump operated by an asymmetrically deformed membrane, which was inspired by caterpillar locomotion. Almost all mechanical micropumps consist of two major components of fluid halting and fluid pushing parts, whereas the proposed caterpillar locomotion-inspired micropump has only a single, bilaterally symmetric membrane-like teardrop shape. A teardrop-shaped elastomeric membrane was asymmetrically deformed and then consecutively touched down to the bottom of the chamber in response to pneumatic pressure, thus achieving fluid pushing. Consecutive touchdown motions of the teardrop-shaped membrane mimicked the propagation of a caterpillar's hump during its locomotory gait. The initial touchdown motion of the teardrop-shaped membrane at the centroid worked as a valve that blocked the inlet channel, and then, the consecutive touchdown motions pushed fluid in the chamber toward the tail of the chamber connected to the outlet channel. The propagation of the touchdown motion of the teardrop-shaped membrane was investigated using computational analysis as well as experimental studies. This caterpillar locomotion-inspired micropump composed of only a single membrane can provide new opportunities for simple integration of microfluidic systems.