Microfluidic Polymer Valves

In a technological breakthrough, Sandia researchers have developed polymer microvalves to allow fluids to be shuttled as easily in microfluidic chips as they are on a laboratory benchtop. The valves are photopatterned, cast-to-shape microscale polymer elements that can be used to isolate electric fields, and, as a consequence, locally isolate electroosmotic or electrophoretic flows. The valves can be actuated by applying pressure to move them inside a microfluidic channel in order to open and close flow pathways, isolating and manipulating the fluids of interest.

Sandia’s isolated cast-in-place microvalves feature the only architecture currently available that enables control of high-pressure (350 bar) fluid flow in microchannels, while simultaneously controlling high-voltage (1 kV). Sandia’s microfluidic polymer valves enable micro-scale systems to apply high-pressure techniques with a wide range of chemical solvents while retaining easy control of microfluidic pathways. These valves are chemically inert, preventing adsorption of species on the valve surface, and enabling low-friction valve motion.

  • Effectively control both electrokinetic and high-pressure hydraulic flow.
  • Greater process speeds using minuscule volumes of reagents, which saves money
  • Significantly rapid response time (in milliseconds).
  • Does not dissipate heat to the substrate
  • Multiple microvalves may be placed on a chip for about 5 cents in materials cost
  • Photopatterning the microvalves is rapid–only taking from 5 to 90 seconds.
  • Valves can be operated in harsh, aggressive solvents as well as typical analytical solvents (such as water, methanol, and acetonitrile).
  • No electrical power is dissipated into the fluid during valve operation.
  • The microvalve dielectric strength is comparable to glass.
  • Quantitative analysis is possible since common biochemical analytes neither react with nor adhere to valve surfaces.
Applications and Industries
  • Miniaturization of gradient liquid chromatography analysis
  • Chemical processing
  • Chemical reactions
  • Multi-dimensional separations
  • Detection of biological and chemical agents
  • Drug development
  • Detection of trace chemical impurities
  • Isolation, sorting, and manipulation of biological samples
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