Industry-supported, and standardized modular platform interconnecting fluidic circuit board and microfluidic building blocks
The research done by Stefan Dekker is focussed on improving the gap between the number of academic proof of concept microfluidic devices and the number of commercial application. A start is made by analysing the factors that inhibit the commercialization of microfluidics. It turns out there are multiple: their multidisciplinary nature, the need for high volume production, the lack of focus due to their broad applicability. To overcome these inhibiting factors an industry-supported, and standardized modular platform is introduced and supported by the European MFManufacturing project. This platform consists out of two parts, the interconnecting fluidic circuit board and the microfluidic building blocks. This platform overcomes some of the inhibiting factors by using the building blocks. They are usable in multiple system, resulting in higher volumes. The building blocks make designing new systems easier. The design effort can be done in several stages, without the need to redo ever stage for a new system. The standardization of the platform is mainly concerned about interoperability, examples are fixed dimensions for the outside dimensions of the microfluidic building blocks and the locations of the interconnects. A library with building blocks and their characterization was also started, including a pressure sensor, valve and reservoir. In the future this library will contain many microfluidic functions. Also different types of fluidic circuit board were demonstrated. To be able to effectively design new microfluidic systems, a new computer aided design tool was also developed in the MFManufacturing project.
To check how well the new standardized platform performs two systems are designed according to it. An AC coulter counter and a cell culturing platform containing 192 individual culture chambers. The AC coulter counter system demonstrates the possibility of the platform to include electrical connection and mix multiple materials in a single system while maintaining a compact footprint of a credit card size. The cell culturing platform consists out of 3 microfluidic building blocks each containing 64 chamber. The fluidic circuit board has integrated valves to be able to individually activate or deactivate a building block. By using multiplexing in the building blocks and a chip select in the fluidic circuit board, over thousand valves can be controlled by only 16 external lines. Hereby greatly reducing the complexity of the setup.
At the end of the MFManufacturing project a new Microfluidic Consortium was formed with members from existing project and new external member. In this new Microfluidic Consortium several workshop have been organized to continue standardization in the microfluidic field.