Underlying Materials

Underlying Materials

A microfluidic chip is a pattern of molded or engraved microchannels. The output holes built on the chip can be used as a link between the microchannel network and the macro environment. Regardless of the application area, the microfluidic chip can easily handle fluids.

According to the required applications such as lab-on-chip, pathogen detection, DNA analysis, various methods (lithography, molding, etching, 3D printing) can be used to produce microfluidic chips, so that micron-level structures such as channels and cavities can be designed. Chambers and holes to meet the requirements for delivering coveted results. Therefore, the material of the microfluidic chip used should also be sufficient and have appropriate performance.

Underlying Materials

Silicon and glass are the earliest original materials used for microfluidic applications, but with the development of new technologies, new materials including polymer substrates, composite materials or paper are used as materials for microfluidic chips. For research purposes, the materials used usually prioritize the versatility and performance of the device. In the commercialization process, the first thing to consider is production cost, reliability and ease of use. Moreover, each material naturally corresponds to a specific microfabrication strategy and certain inherent characteristics of the equipment. Therefore, the materials used to manufacture microfluidic chips play an important role in microfluidic technology.

The main materials for microfluidic chip production are inorganic materials (glass, silicon, ceramic), polymers (COC, PMMA, PDMS) or organic materials (usually paper). The material determines the performance of the chip. The following focuses on some of these materials and their performance in microfluidic chip manufacturing.

Inorganic Materials

Inorganic Materials

Inorganic materials are the earliest materials used in microfluidics, such as glass or quartz capillaries used in gas chromatography and capillary electrophoresis. Glass and silicon are highly rigid materials, have high stability at high temperatures, and are highly resistant to organic solvents. In addition, glass/silicon chips produced by photolithography can reach sub-micron channel sizes and have high reproducibility.

In this section, we will describe inorganic materials used in microfluidic devices.

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Polymer Materials

Polymer Materials

Polymer-based chips appeared a few years after the advent of silicon/glass chips. The diversity of polymers provides great flexibility in choosing suitable materials with specific properties and makes polymers an attractive alternative to glass and silicon. Compared with inorganic materials, polymers are easily available and cheap, and are currently the most commonly used microchip materials.

In this section, we will introduce you to polymer materials such as elastomers and thermoplastics used in microfluidic devices.

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 Other Materials

Other Materials

There are many materials that can be used to make microfluidic chips, such as paper, hydrogels, and cyclic olefin copolymers. Paper is a highly porous and soft material based on cellulose and has become a promising microfluidic material. Hydrogels are highly absorbent, highly porous, hydrophilic, highly permeable, transparent, and biocompatible, which is currently used in many applications, such as cell-cell interaction, drug delivery, artificial tissue construction, and regenerative medicine.

In this section, you will learn more about the materials used in the manufacturing of microfluidic devices.

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