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Metallization and Biopatterning on Ultra-Flexible Substrates via Dextran Sacrificial Layers


Micro-patterning tools adopted from the semiconductor industry have mostly been optimized to pattern features onto rigid silicon and glass substrates, however, recently the need to pattern on soft substrates has been identified in simulating cellular environments or developing flexible biosensors. We present a simple method of introducing a variety of patterned materials and structures into ultra-flexible polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) layers (elastic moduli down to 3 kPa) utilizing water-soluble dextran sacrificial thin films. Dextran films provided a stable template for photolithography, metal deposition, particle adsorption, and protein stamping. These materials and structures (including dextran itself) were then readily transferrable to an elastomer surface following PDMS (10 to 70∶1 base to crosslinker ratios) curing over the patterned dextran layer and after sacrificial etch of the dextran in water. We demonstrate that this simple and straightforward approach can controllably manipulate surface wetting and protein adsorption characteristics of PDMS, covalently link protein patterns for stable cell patterning, generate composite structures of epoxy or particles for study of cell mechanical response, and stably integrate certain metals with use of vinyl molecular adhesives. This method is compatible over the complete moduli range of PDMS, and potentially generalizable over a host of additional micro- and nano-structures and materials.

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