Microfluidic technology continues to hold the promise of bringing lab quality diagnostic tests to the point of care. One of the persistent difficulties in the field has been building interfaces between microfluidic chips and larger devices that have to interact with them. Researchers at UC Davis are now proposing a new standard, called “fit-to-flow” connectors, that promises to allow near universal interconnectivity of microfluidic chips and electronics that control them.
From the study abstract in Lab on a Chip:
In this paper, we present standardized adhesive-free microfluidic adaptors, referred to as Fit-to-Flow (F2F) Interconnects, to achieve reliable hermetic seal, high-density tube packing, self-aligned plug-in, reworkable connectivity, straightforward scalability and expandability, and applicability to broad lab-on-a-chip platforms; analogous to the modular plug-and-play USB architecture employed in modern electronics. Specifically, two distinct physical packaging mechanisms are applied, with one utilizing induced tensile stress in elastomeric socket to establish reversible seal and the other using negative pressure to provide on demand vacuum shield, both of which can be adapted to a variety of experimental configurations. The non-leaking performance (up to 336 kPa) along with high tube-packing density (of 1 tube/mm(2)) and accurate self-guided alignment (of 10 μm) have been characterized. In addition, a 3D microfluidic mixer and a 6-level chemical gradient generator paired with the corresponding F2F Interconnects have been devised to illustrate the applicability of the universal fluidic connections to classic lab-on-a-chip operations.
Image: The clear block to the right is the Fit-to-Flow connector, with a microfluidic chip inserted. Channels take red and blue fluid through the connector to the chip. USB flash drive shown for scale. (Tingrui Pan/UC Davis photo)
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Abstract in Lab on a Chip: Fit-to-Flow (F2F) interconnects: Universal reversible adhesive-free microfluidic adaptors for lab-on-a-chip systems