A simple method to rapidly connect to microfluidic devices with large numbers of fluidic and pneumatic control lines: application to high-throughput toxicity experiments

Gregory A. Cooksey, Javier Atencia, John T. Elliott, and Anne L. Plant

Biochemical Sciences Division, NIST Gaithersburg, MD 20899


Despite their promise to enable high-throughput science and discovery, microfluidic devices have not yet been broadly adopted.  An important missing element in current microfluidic technology is a simple way to interface a large number of fluidic and pneumatic lines to devices.  Although often useful in specific applications, current interfacing schemes either (i) require tedious manual assembly of consumable parts; (ii) need considerable fabrication and setup time for each manufactured device (including clamping and gluing); (iii) are not amenable to incorporation of valving, or (iv) are unable to support applied pressure.  We have developed both a reusable vacuum manifold strategy and a fluidic reservoir system that enable rapid world-to-chip connectivity.  We have begun utilizing these tools to load, test, and operate a 51-inlet, 144-chamber microfluidic device for timelapse microscopy studies of cells whose GFP expression is sensitive to toxins.  The vacuum manifold maintained leak-free performance up to 55 kPa (8psi) driving pressure on the fluidic inlets, which is well above standard operating conditions for this chip.  To improve performance for other microfluidics applications, we tested a number of different vacuum network designs, which all performed similarly, yielding an average of 100 kPa (15 psi) fluid holding pressure on single inlets.  Further improvement to over 340 kPa (50 psi) holding pressure was realized for thin (<300 µm) PDMS devices having a rigid backing.  Due to the speed of connectivity and reusability, these advances are ideal for rapid prototyping in a production line and are well suited to serve as “universal” interfaces.  We believe that these approaches will enable broader utilization of microfluidic technologies by researchers and industries that were previously impeded by lack of quick, simple, and standardizable methods to interface with devices.

Gregory A. Cooksey*

John T. Elliot (Mentor)*

Category: Biotechnology

Biochemical Sciences Division,

Chemical Sciences and Technology Laboratory,

Bldg 227/B264, Mailstop 8313

Telephone: x5529


*Initiated but not current Sigma Xi members