Lab-on-a-chip systems rely on several microfluidic paradigms. The first uses a fixed layout of continuous microfluidic channels. Such lab-on-a-chip systems are almost always application specific and far from a true "laboratory." The second involves electrowetting droplet movement (digital microfluidics), and allows two-dimensional computer control of fluidic transport and mixing. The merging of the two paradigms in the form of programmable electrowetting channels takes advantage of both the "continuous" functionality of rigid channels based on which a large number of applications have been developed to date and the " programmable" functionality of digital microfluidics that permits electrical control of on-chip functions. In this work, we demonstrate for the first time programmable formation of virtual microfluidic channels and their continuous operation with pressure driven flows using an electrowetting platform. Experimental, theoretical, and numerical analyses of virtual channel formation with biologically relevant electrolyte solutions and electrically-programmable reconfiguration are presented. We demonstrate that the "wall-less" virtual channels can be formed reliably and rapidly, with propagation rates of 3.5-3.8 mm s-1. Pressure driven transport in these virtual channels at flow rates up to 100 μL min-1 is achievable without distortion of the channel shape. We further demonstrate that these virtual channels can be switched on-demand between multiple inputs and outputs. Ultimately, we envision a platform that would provide rapid prototyping of microfluidic concepts and would be capable of a vast library of functions and benefitting applications from clinical diagnostics in resource-limited environments to rapid system prototyping to high throughput pharmaceutical applications.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biomedical Engineering