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Physics  2014 

Punch Card Programmable Microfluidics

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0115993

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Abstract:

Small volume fluid handling in single and multiphase microfluidics provides a promising strategy for efficient bio-chemical assays, low-cost point-of-care diagnostics and new approaches to scientific discoveries. However multiple barriers exist towards low-cost field deployment of programmable microfluidics. Incorporating multiple pumps, mixers and discrete valve based control of nanoliter fluids and droplets in an integrated, programmable manner without additional required external components has remained elusive. Combining the idea of punch card programming with arbitrary fluid control, here we describe a self-contained, hand-crank powered, multiplex and robust programmable microfluidic platform. A paper tape encodes information as a series of punched holes. A mechanical reader/actuator reads these paper tapes and correspondingly executes a series of operations onto a microfluidic chip coupled to the platform in a plug-and-play fashion. Enabled by the complexity of codes that can be represented by a series of holes in punched paper tapes, we demonstrate independent control of fifteen on-chip pumps with enhanced mixing, on-off valves and a novel on-demand impact-based droplet generator. We demonstrate robustness of operation by encoding a string of characters representing the word "PUNCHCARD MICROFLUIDICS" using the droplet generator. Multiplexing is demonstrated by implementing an example water quality test utilizing colorimetric assays for pH, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate content in different water samples. With its portable and robust design, low cost and ease-of-use, we envision punch card programmable microfluidics will bring complex control of microfluidic chips into field-based applications in low-resource settings and in the hands of children around the world bringing microfluidics and low-Reynolds number hydrodynamics to everyday classrooms.

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