Capillary forces in microfluidics provide a simple yet elegant means to direct liquids through flow channel networks. The ability to manipulate the flow in a truly automated manner has proven more problematic. The majority of valves require some form of flow control devices, which are manually, mechanically or electrically driven. Most demonstrated capillary systems have been manufactured by photolithography, which, despite its high precision and repeatability, can be labour intensive, requires a clean room environment and the use of fixed photomasks, limiting thereby the agility of the manufacturing process to readily examine alternative designs. In this paper, we describe a robust and rapid CO2 laser manufacturing process and demonstrate a range of capillary-driven microfluidic valve structures embedded within a microfluidic network. The manufacturing process described allows for advanced control and manipulation of fluids such that flow can be halted, triggered and delayed based on simple geometrical alterations to a given microchannel. The rapid prototyping methodology has been employed with PMMA substrates and a complete device has been created, ready for use, within 2-3 h. We believe that this agile manufacturing process can be applied to produce a range of complex autonomous fluidic platforms and allows subsequent designs to be rapidly explored.
- CAPILLARY STOP VALVES