Microfluidic devices have long been considered an ideal tool for rapid and inexpensive chemical analysis and reactions in areas ranging from point-of-care health to national security applications. However, fabricating microfluidic devices is time consuming, difficult and above all expensive. In commercial applications many thousand units need to be sold before the development costs are recovered. The problem is compounded since most microfluidic devices do not have generalized architectures which means that each end use requires a specialized design. The microfluidics marketplace can therefore be seen as being composed of 1000’s of niche markets.
To address development costs, there is clearly a need for a versatile technology that can be used for many different applications and that enables rapid testing and optimization of new designs. This work describes such a technology: Contact Liquid Photolithographic Polymerization (CLiPP).
The thesis consists of two parts: polymerization kinetics and the fabrication of polymeric microfluidic devices via CLiPP.
The photopolymerization kinetics is evaluated for a number of monomer types, and the results are used to assess their suitability in the CLiPP process. Vinyl ether/maleate photoinitiated copolymerization is examined in detail. It is shown that the polymerization kinetics is dramatically influenced by the availability of easily abstractable hydrogens The presence of α-hydrogens adjacent to the vinyl ether functional group reduces the polymerization rate and the dependence of the polymerization rate as a function of initiation rate. Also, photoinitiated acrylate and methacrylate polymerization kinetics are presented. The kinetics results in these three monomer types are used to explain the different patterning properties of the monomer functionalities used in the CLiPP process, in which acrylates show enhanced patterning properties compared to methacrylates. The polymerization kinetics is studied with traditional tools and methods: photo Differential Scanning Calorimetry (photo-DSC), photo Fourier Transform Real Time Infrared Spectroscopy (photo-RTIR), and photo Real Time Electron Paramagnetic Spectroscopy (ESR).
The microfluidic fabrication is performed via both in-house fabricated and commercially available CLiPP-specific hardware. The patterning qualities of the structures are evaluated via Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) and Optical Microscopy. The finished devices are used in their intended environment and evaluated in suitable manners to assess their utility.
In this thesis, the development and design of specialized CLiPP fabrication machines, fabrication techniques and resulting microfluidic device features are presented anddiscussed. It is shown that the CLiPP scheme enables features such as 3 dimensional (3D) capabilities for minimized device footprints, a very large number of polymeric materials for optimized device components as well as facile integration of prefabricated components. Also, covalent layer adhesion and permanent surface modifications via living radical processes are demonstrated. These capabilities are exemplified in a number of examples that range from a 3D fluidic channel maze with separated fluidic streams and a device with independently moveable parts to a device constructed from multiple polymeric materials and devices with permanently modified surfaces, Also, batch processing capabilities are shown through fabrication of 400 identical undercut microstructures.
Rapid and inexpensive design evaluations, multiple materials capabilities and the ability to seamlessly incorporate prefabricated microstructures of the CLiPP process strongly encourages continued method development. The future work that remains to be addressed is divided into two parts. First, to enable novel research devices, new polymer materials with enhanced mechanical and surface properties must be developed. Also, integration of prefabricated microstructures such as sensors and actuators has to be incorporated in a reproducible and rational manner. Secondly, to enable device mass fabrication, new automated equipment is to be developed in order to utilize the full batch processing potential of CLiPP.