Microfluidics made easy: A robust low-cost constant pressure flow controller for engineers and cell biologists
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Over the last decade, microfluidics has become increasingly popular in biology and bioengineering. While lab-on-a-chip fabrication costs have continued to decrease, the hardware required for delivering controllable fluid flows to the microfluidic devices themselves remains expensive and often cost prohibitive for researchers interested in starting a microfluidics project. Typically, microfluidic experiments require precise and tunable flow rates from a system that is simple to operate. While many labs use commercial platforms or syringe pumps, these solutions can cost thousands of dollars and can be cost prohibitive. Here, we present an inexpensive and easy-to-use constant pressure system for delivering flows to microfluidic devices. The controller costs less than half the price of a single syringe pump but can independently switch and deliver fluid through up to four separate fluidic inlets at known flow rates with significantly faster fluid response times. It is constructed of readily available pressure regulators, gauges, plastic connectors and adapters, and tubing. Flow rate is easily predicted and calibrated using hydraulic circuit analysis and capillary tubing resistors. Finally, we demonstrate the capabilities of the flow system by performing well-known microfluidic experiments for chemical gradient generation and emulsion droplet production.
author list (cited authors)
Mavrogiannis, N., Ibo, M., Fu, X., Crivellari, F., & Gagnon, Z.