University of Illinois researchers have fabricated
tiny, three-dimensional fluidic networks that promise to reduce the size
The researchers printed layers of organic material onto a moving
platform to form a three-dimensional scaffold. They filled the scaffolding
with epoxy that solidified at room temperature, then heated the structure
to 50 degrees Celsius to melt and remove the scaffolding. The resulting
channels were as small as 10 microns in diameter -- about twice the size
of a red blood cell.
The researchers built a structure that mixed tiny amounts of fluids.
In very small amounts fluids are viscous and don't readily mix.
The researchers made a series of twists and turns by filling a network
of channels with a photocurable resin and shining light to solidify the
resin at certain points. The prototype mixed fluids by forcing them through
the turns, which formed a square, spiral tower.
The method could eventually produce networks containing hundreds
of layers and interconnections, leading to more compact microfluidic devices
like biomedical implants and sensors, according to the researchers.
The method could be used in commercial applications in five to ten
years, according to the researchers. The work appeared in the March 23,
2003 issue of Nature Materials.
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