An ultra-fast, extremely cost-effective, and environmentally friendly method was developed for fabricating flexible microfluidic chips with plastic membranes. With this method, we could fabricate plastic microfluidic chips rapidly (within 12 seconds per piece) at an extremely low cost (less than $0.02 per piece). We used a heated perfluoropolymer perfluoroalkoxy (often called Teflon PFA) solid stamp to press a pile of two pieces of plastic membranes, low density polyethylene (LDPE) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) coated with an ethylene-vinyl acetate copolymer (EVA). During the short period of contact with the heated PFA stamp, the pressed area of the membranes permanently bonded, while the LDPE membrane spontaneously rose up at the area not pressed, forming microchannels automatically. These two regions were clearly distinguishable even at the micrometer scale so we were able to fabricate microchannels with widths down to 50 microns. This method combines the two steps in the conventional strategy for microchannel fabrication, generating microchannels and sealing channels, into a single step. The production is a green process without using any solvent or generating any waste. Also, the chips showed good resistance against the absorption of Rhodamine 6G, oligonucleotides, and green fluorescent protein (GFP). We demonstrated some typical microfluidic manipulations with the flexible plastic membrane chips, including droplet formation, on-chip capillary electrophoresis, and peristaltic pumping for quantitative injection of samples and reagents. In addition, we demonstrated convenient on-chip detection of lead ions in water samples by a peristaltic-pumping design, as an example of the application of the plastic membrane chips in a resource-limited environment. Due to the high speed and low cost of the fabrication process, this single-step method will facilitate the mass production of microfluidic chips and commercialization of microfluidic technologies.
Scopus Subject Areas
- Biomedical Engineering