Fabrication of large-area polymer microfilter membranes and their application for particle and cell enrichment†
A vacuum assisted UV micro-molding (VAUM) process is proposed for the fabrication of freestanding and defect-free polymer membranes based on a UV-curable methacrylate polymer (MD 700). VAUM is a highly flexible and powerful method for fabricating low cost, robust, large-area membranes over 9 × 9 cm2 with pore sizes from 8 to 20 μm in diameter, 20 to 100 μm in thickness, high aspect ratio (the thickness of the polymer over the diameter of the hole is up to 15 : 1), high porosity, and a wide variety of geometrical characteristics. The fabricated freestanding membranes are flexible while mechanically robust enough for post manipulation and handling, which allows them to be cut and integrated as a plastic cartridge onto thermoplastic 3D microfluidic devices with single or double filtration stages. Very high particle capture efficiencies (≈98%) have been demonstrated in the microfluidic devices integrated with polymer membranes, even when the size of the beads is very close to the size of the pores of the microfilter. About 85% of the capture efficiency has been achieved in cancer cell trapping experiments, in which a breast cancer cell line (MDA-MB-231) spiked with phosphate-buffered saline buffer when the pore size of the filter is 8 μm and the device is operated at a flow rate of 0.1 mL min−1.