08.01.20Micromachines Rapid Fabrication of Membrane-Integrated Thermoplastic Elastomer Microfluidic Devices
Leveraging the advantageous material properties of recently developed soft thermoplastic elastomer materials, this work presents the facile and rapid fabrication of composite membrane-integrated microfluidic devices consisting of FlexdymTM polymer and commercially available porous polycarbonate membranes. The three-layer devices can be fabricated in under 2.5 h, consisting of a 2-min hot embossing cycle, conformal contact between device layers and a low-temperature baking step. The strength of the FlexdymTM-polycarbonate seal was characterized using a specialized microfluidic delamination device and an automated pressure controller configuration, offering a standardized and high-throughput method of microfluidic burst testing. Given a minimum bonding distance of 200 μm, the materials showed bonding that reliably withstood pressures of 500 mbar and above, which is sufficient for most microfluidic cell culture applications. Bonding was also stable when subjected to long term pressurization (10 h) and repeated use (10,000 pressure cycles). Cell culture trials confirmed good cell adhesion and sustained culture of human dermal fibroblasts on a polycarbonate membrane inside the device channels over the course of one week. In comparison to existing porous membrane-based microfluidic platforms of this configuration, most often made of polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), these devices offer a streamlined fabrication methodology with materials having favourable properties for cell culture applications and the potential for implementation in barrier model organ-on-chips.