Microfluidic devices use tiny spaces to manipulate very small quantities of liquids and gasses by taking advantage of the properties they exhibit at the microscale. They have demonstrated usefulness in applications from inkjet printing to chemical analysis. They have great potential in personalized medicine, where they can miniaturize many tests that now require a full lab, lending them the name lab-on-a-chip. Researchers approached microfluidic fabrication from a new direction and developed an innovative process to make devices with some distinctive properties and advantages.
Making devices with microfluidic channels has required assembling them from several components, introducing possible points of failure. The new microfluidic fabrication process needs no such assembly. Instead, it uses light-sensitized common polymers and micro-LED light sources to create self-enclosed, porous, high-resolution channels. These channels can carry aqueous solutions and separate small biomolecules from each other through a novel photolithography technique.
The development builds upon Organized Microfibrillation (OM) technology, a printing process. Due to a unique feature of the OM process, the microfluidic channels display structural color linked to the pore size. This correlation ties the flow rate to the color as well. It is an entirely new platform for microfluidic technology, not just for personal diagnostics but also for miniaturized sensors and detectors.