Microfluidic technologies have demonstrated great potential in a wide variety of fields, providing accurate and reliable management of small samples and reagents. Healthcare is particularly well-positioned to benefit from this technology with an ongoing rise in demand for point-of-care (POC) health technologies, including concepts such as lab-on-a-chip (LOC). Despite their promise, these LOC devices have not been widely commercialized or adopted primarily because of the critical transition from an initial research design into a final product. To overcome this challenge, differences in the fabrication methods used in the research process and in final industrial production need to be eliminated.
To meet this challenge, investigators at UC Berkeley have made a groundbreaking development creating microfluidic devices in plastics, bridging the fabrication process from lab to commercial manufacturing. Utilizing hot embossing, a new fabrication methodology has been developed for embedding metallic microelectrodes in thermoplastic microfluidic devices. Microelectrodes are first fabricated on steel wafers by means of photolithographic techniques and electrode position, and then transferred to the plastic using hot embossing. The unique shape of the microelectrodes provides self-anchoring mechanisms that ensure structural stability and reliability of the devices. A wide variety of thermoplastics can be used in this process, including polycarbonate, polymethylmethacrylate, cyclic olefin copolymer, and others. Moreover, this technique can be combined with embedded silicon-based sensors providing the necessary connectronics and access to the miniaturized biological or physical sample. With this rapid fabrication method for microfluidic prototypes it is possible to scale the fabrication to a large series of devices easily, shortening the transition of current research to commercial microfluidic devices and revolutionizing current production practices.
- Point-of-care diagnostic devices
- Lab-on-a-chip, organ-on-a-chip, drug screening, etc.
- Silicon-based sensors embedded in microfluidic devices
- 3D microelectrodes conformal to microfluidic networks
|- Fabrication of complex devices|
- 2 to 3.5 hour prototyping
- 10-1000 micron nickel electrodes
- Precise control nickel structure height
- Plastic remains complete planar surface