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Networked Labs-on-a-Chip

Networked Labs-on-a-Chip

Contact
Dr. Werner Haselmayr

Cooperations
Institut for Integrated Circuits
Institut for Microelectronics and Microsensors

Description
In Labs-on-a-Chip (LoC) tiny volumes of fluids (droplets) are manipulated for the purpose of chemical or biological analysis, such as drug discovery or DNA sequencing. A LoC performs a complex analysis by passing droplets through a predefined order of operations (e.g., mixing or splitting of droplets). Currently, in a LoC the output of an operation is statically connected with the input of another operation, which limits the flexibility and reusability. This issue could be reduced by performing various analyzes on a single LoC through selecting the involved operations in a programmable way. To realize such a programmable LoC the operations, required for the different analyzes, are interconnected in a microfluidic network, a so-called Networked Labs-on-a-Chip (NLoC). In a microfluidic network the droplets can be routed between the operations using different approaches that exploit electrical fields, thermal gradients, magnetic fields, acoustic waves or hydrodynamic forces.

In our research we use the approach that exploits hydrodynamic forces to drive the droplets, due to its biocompatibility and the low production costs. The main principle of this approach is that the droplets flows along the path with minimum fluidic resistance, which can be easily manipulated by the channel geometry. To enable the envisioned pure hydrodynamic NLoC we are currently engaged in the following topics:
  • Design of addressing and switching methods for the microfluidic network.
  • Validation of the addressing and switching techniques through simulations and experiments.
  • Identification of the optimal network topology.
Microfluidic Testbed: 1: Pressure pump, 2: Fluid reservoirs, 3: Microfluidic chip, 4: Microscope camera.



Example of a 2-way switch: The first droplet (header) guides the second droplet (payload) to one of the two output branches, depending on their distance.

2-Way Switch: Small Droplet Distance

2-Way Switch: Large Droplet Distance