All-graphene-based open fluidics for pumpless, small-scale fluid transport via laser-controlled wettability patterning
Open microfluidics have emerged as a low-cost, pumpless alternative strategy to conventional microfluidics for delivery of fluid for a wide variety of applications including rapid biochemical analysis and medical diagnosis. However, creating open microfluidics by tuning the wettability of surfaces typically requires sophisticated cleanroom processes that are unamenable to scalable manufacturing. Herein, we present a simple approach to develop open microfluidic platforms by manipulating the surface wettability of spin-coated graphene ink films on flexible polyethylene terephthalate via laser-controlled patterning. Wedge-shaped hydrophilic tracks surrounded by superhydrophobic walls are created within the graphene films by scribing micron-sized grooves into the graphene with a CO2 laser. This scribing process is used to make superhydrophobic walls (water contact angle ~ 160º) that delineate hydrophilic tracks (created through an oxygen plasma pretreatment) on the graphene for fluid transport. These all-graphene open microfluidic tracks are capable of transporting liquid droplets with a velocity of 20 mm/s on a level surface and uphill at elevation angles of 7º as well as transporting fluid in bifurcating cross and tree branches. The all-graphene open microfluidic manufacturing technique is rapid and amenable to scalable manufacturing, and consequently offers an alternative pumpless strategy to conventional microfluidics and creates possibilities for diverse applications in fluid transport.