Direct Laser Writing Develops Smallest 3D Microfluidic Circuit Element

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Researchers from University of Maryland stated readily-integrated 3D nanostructured fluidic motifs can facilitate development of soft microrobotics and biofluidic microsystems

A team of researchers from University of Maryland (UMD) developed the first 3D-printed micro fluid circuit element. The diode allows fluid movement in only a single direction. This property is a critical feature for products such as implantable devices that release therapies directly into the body. Moreover, the use of 3D nanoprinting strategy in development of microfluidic diode can prove cost-effective in areas such as personalized medicine and drug delivery. According to Ryan Sochol, an assistant professor in mechanical engineering and bioengineering at A. James Clark School of Engineering of UMD, the ability to significantly reduce the size of 3D-printed microfluidic circuitry offers various benefits in fields such as pharmaceutical screening, medical diagnostics, and microrobotics.

3D nanoprinting is an emerging technology that can be used to build medical devices and create ‘organ-on-a-chip’ systems. However, the technology was considered impractical for use in pharmaceuticals, nutrients, and other fluids as micro environments may lead to leakage. Moreover, the cost of overcoming those complexities can be high. Additive manufacturing technologies that print features significantly larger than the new UMD fluid diode were previously used. The team used a process known as sol-gel that enabled to hold the diode to the walls of a microscale channel printed with a common polymer.

The team later printed the diode’s minute architecture directly inside of the channel through a layer-by-layer approach from the top of the channel down. The resulting device was a fully sealed, 3D microfluidic diode that was developed at a fraction of the cost and in less time than previous methods. According to the researchers, the strong seal can protect the circuit from contamination. Moreover, further strengthening by a reshaping of the microchannel walls ensures that any fluid pushed through the diode is not released at the wrong time or place. Sochol stated that the approach can allow to 3D nanoprint complex fluidic systems in a faster and cheaper way. The research was published in the journal Scientific Reports on January 23, 2019.

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Latisha Diaz is a general assignment reporter at Plains Gazette. She has covered sports, entertainment and many other beats in his journalism career, and has lived in City Houston for more than 8 years. Latisha has appeared periodically on national television shows and has been published in (among others) The National Post, Politico, The Atlantic, Harper’s, Wired.com, Vice and Salon.com.