A microfluidic method to measure bulging heights for bulge testing of polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) and polyurethane (PU) elastomeric membranes†
Thin and flexible elastomeric membranes are frequently used in many microfluidic applications including microfluidic valves and organs-on-a-chip. The elastic properties of these membranes play an important role in the design of such microfluidic devices. Bulge testing, which is a common method to characterize the elastic behavior of these membranes, involves direct observation of the changes in the bulge height in response to a range of applied pressures. Here, we report a microfluidic approach to measure the bulging height of elastic membranes to replace direct observation of the bulge height under a microscope. Bulging height is measured by tracking the displacement of a fluid inside a microfluidic channel, where the fluid in the channel was designed to be directly in contact with the elastomeric membrane. Polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) and polyurethane (PU) membranes with thickness 12–35 μm were fabricated by spin coating for bulge testing using both direct optical observation and the microfluidic method. Bulging height determined from the optical method was subject to interpretation by the user, whereas the microfluidic approach provided a simple but sensitive method for determining the bulging height of membranes down to a few micrometers. This work validates the proof of principle that uses microfluidics to accurately measure bulging height in conventional bulge testing for polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) and polyurethane (PU)eElastomeric membranes.