Tunable in-situ electro-polymerization of hydrogel films for microchip-based bioanalysis
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Electro-polymerization phenomena have been previously investigated at the macroscale in the context of producing polymeric coatings over extended surface areas. But electrical actuation also offers exquisite local control of the polymerized films' position, morphology, and thickness, suggesting compelling advantages in microfluidic-based analysis systems. Here, we introduce a microfabricated platform incorporating arrays of individually addressable on-chip electrodes capable of generating discretely positioned electro-polymerized hydrogel films inside microchannels in timescales of ∼5 min. Sequential actuation of specific electrode pairs initiates localized propagation of anchored polyacrylamide gel films and permits directed control of their size, shape, and growth rate. In addition to precise positioning of hydrogel films, obstacles, and barriers within microchannel networks, our approach makes it possible to encapsulate macromolecules within the films during polymerization, suggesting utility in a host of areas including separations, sample purification, and immunoassays.
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