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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Microscale solution manipulation using photopolymerized hydrogel membranes and induced charge electroosmosis micropumps

  • Author(s): Paustian, Joel Scott
  • Advisor(s): Squires, Todd
  • et al.

Microfluidic technology is playing an ever-expanding role in advanced chemical and biological devices, with diverse applications including medical diagnostics, high throughput research tools, chemical or biological detection, separations, and controlled particle fabrication. Even so, local (microscale) modification of solution properties within microchannels, such as pressure, solute concentration, and voltage remains a challenge, and improved spatiotemporal control would greatly enhance the capabilities of microfluidics. This thesis demonstrates and characterizes two microfluidic tools to enhance local solution control.

I first describe a microfluidic pump that uses an electrokinetic effect, Induced-Charge Electroosmosis (ICEO), to generate pressure on-chip. In ICEO, steady flows are driven by AC fields along metal-electrolyte interfaces. I design and microfabricate a pump that exploits this effect to generate on-chip pressures. The ICEO pump is used to drive flow along a microchannel, and the pressure is measured as a function of voltage, frequency, and electrolyte composition. This is the first demonstration of chip-scale flows driven by ICEO, which opens the possibility for ICEO pumping in self-contained microfluidic devices.

Next, I demonstrate a method to create thin local membranes between microchannels, which enables local diffusive delivery of solute. These ``Hydrogel Membrane Microwindows'' are made by photopolymerizing a hydrogel which serves as a local ``window'' for solute diffusion and electromigration between channels, but remains a barrier to flow. I demonstrate three novel experimental capabilities enabled by the hydrogel membranes: local concentration gradients, local electric currents, and rapid diffusive composition changes.

I conclude by applying the hydrogel membranes to study solvophoresis, the migration of particles in solvent gradients. Solvent gradients are present in many chemical processes, but migration of particles within these gradients is not well understood. An improved understanding would allow solvophoresis to be engineered (\emph{e.g.} for coatings and thin film deposition) or reduced (\emph{e.g.} in fouling processes during reactions and separations). Toward this end, I perform velocity measurements of colloidal particles at various ethanol-water concentrations and gradient strengths. The velocity was found to depend on the mole fraction via the equation $u=D_{SP}\nabla \ln{X}$, where $u$ is the velocity, $D_{SP}$ is the mobility, and $X$ is the ethanol mole fraction.

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