Event-triggered logical flow control for comprehensive process integration of multi-step assays on centrifugal microfluidic platforms†
The centrifugal “lab-on-a-disc” concept has proven to have great potential for process integration of bioanalytical assays, in particular where ease-of-use, ruggedness, portability, fast turn-around time and cost efficiency are of paramount importance. Yet, as all liquids residing on the disc are exposed to the same centrifugal field, an inherent challenge of these systems remains the automation of multi-step, multi-liquid sample processing and subsequent detection. In order to orchestrate the underlying bioanalytical protocols, an ample palette of rotationally and externally actuated valving schemes has been developed. While excelling with the level of flow control, externally actuated valves require interaction with peripheral instrumentation, thus compromising the conceptual simplicity of the centrifugal platform. In turn, for rotationally controlled schemes, such as common capillary burst valves, typical manufacturing tolerances tend to limit the number of consecutive laboratory unit operations (LUOs) that can be automated on a single disc. In this paper, a major advancement on recently established dissolvable film (DF) valving is presented; for the very first time, a liquid handling sequence can be controlled in response to completion of preceding liquid transfer event, i.e. completely independent of external stimulus or changes in speed of disc rotation. The basic, event-triggered valve configuration is further adapted to leverage conditional, large-scale process integration. First, we demonstrate a fluidic network on a disc encompassing 10 discrete valving steps including logical relationships such as an AND-conditional as well as serial and parallel flow control. Then we present a disc which is capable of implementing common laboratory unit operations such as metering and selective routing of flows. Finally, as a pilot study, these functions are integrated on a single disc to automate a common, multi-step lab protocol for the extraction of total RNA from mammalian cell homogenate.