Hydrogel-driven paper-based microfluidics†
Paper-based microfluidics provide an inexpensive, easy to use technology for point-of-care diagnostics in developing countries. Here, we combine paper-based microfluidic devices with responsive hydrogels to add an entire new class of functions to these versatile low-cost fluidic systems. The hydrogels serve as fluid reservoirs. In response to an external stimulus, e.g. an increase in temperature, the hydrogels collapse and release fluid into the structured paper substrate. In this way, chemicals that are either stored on the paper substrate or inside the hydrogel pads can be dissolved, premixed, and brought to reaction to fulfill specific analytic tasks. We demonstrate that multi-step sequences of chemical reactions can be implemented in a paper-based system and operated without the need for external precision pumps. We exemplify this technology by integrating an antibody-based E. coli test on a small and easy to use paper device.