Microfluidics has a wide range of applications across a vast swathe of industries. Microfluidics encompasses both microfluidic chips and microfluidic devices. In this post we’ll discuss what exactly is a microfluidic chip and how microfluidic chips are being used today. Let’s begin.
What is a microfluidic chip?
A microfluidic chip refers to an apparatus used in Microfluidics applications. A microfluidic chip closely resembles a microscope slide…but microfluidic chips have micron-thin internal channels. The micro channels are usually connected to an external pump to drive nano-liters of fluid into the microchannels by means of micro-bore tubes. The micro channels could be as simple as a straight line, or as complex as a network of features (chambers, channels) separated by thin walls, membranes or valves.
Microfluidic chips are the “houses” on which multiple microfluidic devices can be placed.
What materials are used to make microfluidic chips?
Similar to microfluidic devices, many manufacturers use what is called PDMS to create microfluidic chips. At Citrogene, we have developed a proprietary manufacturing method that allows our engineers to create increasingly complex microfluidic chips with glass. We have found glass to be a durable substrate and has uses in multiple industries and benefits.
How to use Microfluidic Chips?
Microfluidic chips are often used as a part of a larger, intricate systems. These systems fall into three main categories: Chip-in-a-lab, Lab on a chip, and integrated microfluidic chip.
This is the most popular way of using a microfluidic chip. The microfluidic chip is usually connected to a syringe pump using tubes. Fluid is driven into the chip and a physical, chemical, or biological experiment is set. There are thousands of ways this setup could be used. It could be used to separate some particles from other particles, e.g. cancer cells from regular cells. The applications of microfluidics are enormous. In this setup sometimes the microfluidic chip is placed in a regular or inverted microscope to see the action or reactions in the channels. The chip may be placed under laser, magnet or piezoelectric acoustic wave makers. The chip may be placed inside an incubator for an extended period of time for organ on chip applications. Microfluidic chips could be used in pretty much any lab that uses liquid of some sort for research.
Lab on a chip
A true lab on a chip, is when the whole action happens in or around the microfluidic chip. Such a system should drive the flow through capillary action, or inline pumps. Then control and process the flow, and give results. Although many microfluidics chips have been called LOC, true LOCs have not emerged yet. The closest could be lateral flow type platforms.
Integrated Microfluidic Chip
This category is a middle ground between Chip-in-a-lab and Lab on a Chip. The microfluidic chip is usually integrated in an injection molded cartridge, cassette, or kit. The cartridge is then inserted into an analyzer or reader where most of the actuation, sensing and processing takes place. Examples are finger prick blood glucose meters for diabetes.
Citrogene: Glass Microfluidic Chip Engineers
Microfluidics has a multitude of applications across a wide variety of industries. When it comes to producing the ideal microfluidic device for your specific needs, there’s only one microfluidic partner to consider: Citrogene. Our proprietary process allows us to create precise, customized, state-of-the-art microfluidic devices based on your needs, all produced in glass. Contact us today to learn more.