Rational design of capillary-driven flows for paper-based microfluidics†
The design of paper-based assays that integrate passive pumping requires a precise programming of the fluid transport, which has to be encoded in the geometrical shape of the substrate. This requirement becomes critical in multiple-step processes, where fluid handling must be accurate and reproducible for each operation. The present work theoretically investigates the capillary imbibition in paper-like substrates to better understand fluid transport in terms of the macroscopic geometry of the flow domain. A fluid dynamic model was derived for homogeneous porous substrates with arbitrary cross-sectional shapes, which allows one to determine the cross-sectional profile required for a prescribed fluid velocity or mass transport rate. An extension of the model to slit microchannels is also demonstrated. Calculations were validated by experiments with prototypes fabricated in our lab. The proposed method constitutes a valuable tool for the rational design of paper-based assays.