Active pneumatic control of centrifugal microfluidic flows for lab-on-a-chip applications
This paper reports a novel method of controlling liquid motion on a centrifugal microfluidic platform based on the integration of a regulated pressure pump and a programmable electromechanical valving system. We demonstrate accurate control over the displacement of liquids within the system by pressurizing simultaneously multiple ports of the microfluidic device while the platform is rotating at high speed. Compared to classical centrifugal microfluidic platforms where liquids are solely driven by centrifugal and capillary forces, the method presented herein adds a new degree of freedom for fluidic manipulation, which represents a paradigm change in centrifugal microfluidics. We first demonstrate how various core microfluidic functions such as valving, switching, and reverse pumping (i.e., against the centrifugal field) can be easily achieved by programming the pressures applied at dedicated access ports of the microfluidic device. We then show, for the first time, that the combination of centrifugal force and active pneumatic pumping offers the possibility of mixing fluids rapidly (~0.1 s) and efficiently based on the creation of air bubbles at the bottom of a microfluidic reservoir. Finally, the suitability of the developed platform for performing complex bioanalytical assays in an automated fashion is demonstrated in a DNA harvesting experiment where recovery rates of about 70% were systematically achieved. The proposed concept offers the interesting prospect to decouple basic microfluidic functions from specific material properties, channel dimensions and fabrication tolerances, surface treatments, or on-chip active components, thus promoting integration of complex assays on simple and low-cost microfluidic cartridges.