A microfluidics approach to the problem of creating separate solution environments accessible from macroscopic volumes
Journal article, 2004
We report on a microfluidic device that generates separate solution environments in macroscopic volumes. Spatially distinct patterns are created by emitting fluids from 16 different sources (closely spaced microchannels) into a solution-filled macroscopic chamber. The fluid in neighboring microchannels couples viscously in the macroscopic container, generating one single interdigitated stream. Scanning nanoelectrode amperometry was used for characterizing the concentration landscape and the diffusion zones between solutions running in parallel at different coordinates in the stream. These experiments were complemented by finite element simulations of the Navier-Stokes and mass transport equations to describe the velocity distributions and the diffusion behavior. For in channel flow velocities of 50 mm·s -1 , patterns could persist on the order of millimeters to centimeters in the open volume. The most narrow diffusion zones with widths less than 10 μm (5-95% concentration change) were found some tens of micrometers out in the macroscopic container. We demonstrate that a 14-μm-diameter nearly spherical object (biological cell) attached to a micropipet can be moved from one solution environment to another by a lateral displacement of only 8 μm. The device is suitable for applications where the solution environment around a microscopic or nanoscopic sensor needs to be changed multiple times, i.e., in order to build layered structures, for obtaining binding isotherms, and kinetic information, for example, on ion channels, enzymes, and receptors as well as in applications where different loci on an object need to be exposed to different environments or where complex solution environments need to be created for studies of interfacial chemistry between two streaming layers.