Microfluidic dialysis using photo-patterned hydrogel membranes in PDMS chips†
We report the fabrication of permeable membranes for microfluidic dialysis applications in poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS) channels. A maskless UV projection device was used to photo-pattern long hydrogel membranes (mm–cm) with a spatial resolution of a few microns in PDMS chips integrating also micro-valves. We show in particular that multi-layer soft lithography allows one to deplete oxygen from the PDMS walls using a nitrogen gas flow and therefore makes possible in situ UV-induced polymerization of hydrogels. We also report a simple surface modification of the PDMS channels leading to strongly anchored hydrogel membranes that can withstand trans-membrane pressure drops up to 1 bar without leakages. We then measured the Darcy permeability of these membranes and estimated their cut-off by measuring the kinetics of diffusion of macromolecules of different sizes through the membrane. Finally, we illustrate the opportunities offered by such microfluidic chips for dialysis applications by observing in real time the crystallization of a model protein in a chamber of a few nanoliters.