Walsh, E., Feuerborn, A., Wheeler, J., Tan A.N., Durham W., Foster K., and Cook, P.R. (2017). Microfluidics with fluid walls.
Nature Communications 8, Article number: 816 (2017) doi:10.1038/s41467-017-00846-4


Microfluidics has great potential, but the complexity of fabricating and operating devices has limited its use. Here we describe a method — Freestyle Fluidics — that overcomes many key limitations. In this method, liquids are confined by fluid (not solid) walls. Aqueous circuits with any 2D shape are printed in seconds on plastic or glass Petri dishes; then, interfacial forces pin liquids to substrates, and overlaying an immiscible liquid prevents evaporation. Confining fluid walls are pliant and resilient; they self-heal when liquids are pipetted through them. We drive flow through a wide range of circuits passively by manipulating surface tension and hydrostatic pressure, and actively using external pumps. Finally, we validate the technology with two challenging applications — triggering an inflammatory response in human cells and chemotaxis in bacterial biofilms. This approach provides a powerful and versatile alternative to traditional microfluidics. pdf

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