Contactless microfluidic pumping using microchannel-integrated carbon black composite membranes
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The ability to pump and manipulate fluid at the micron-scale is a basic requirement for microfluidic platforms. Many current manipulation methods, however, require expensive and bulky external supporting equipment, which are not typically compatible for portable applications. We have developed a contactless metal electro-osmotic micropump capable of pumping conductive buffers. The pump operates using two pairs of gallium metal electrodes, which are activated using an external voltage source and separated from a main flow channel by a thin micron-scale polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) membrane. The thin contactless membrane allows for field penetration and electro-osmotic flow within the microchannel, but eliminates electrode damage and sample contamination commonly associated with traditional DC electro-osmotic pumps that utilize electrodes in direct contact with the working fluid. Our previous work has demonstrated the effectiveness of this method in pumping deionized water. However, due to the high resistivity of PDMS, this method proved difficult to apply towards manipulating conductive buffers. To overcome this limitation, we fabricated conductive carbon black (CB) powder directly into the contactless PDMS membranes. The increased electrical conductivity of the contactless PDMS membrane significantly increased micropump performance. Using a microfluidic T-channel device and an electro-osmotic flow model, we determined the influence that CB has on pump pressure for CB weight percents varying between 0 and 20. The results demonstrate that the CB increases pump pressure by two orders of magnitude and enables effective operations with conductive buffers.
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