Microfluidics is a continually growing field covering a wide range of applications, such as cellular analysis, biomarker quantification, and drug discovery; but in spite of this, the field of microfluidics remains predominately academic. New materials are pivotal in providing tailored properties to improve device integration and decrease prototype turnaround times. In biosensing, nonspecific adsorption in microfluidic systems can deplete target molecules in solution and prevent analytes, especially those at low concentrations, from reaching the detector. Polyethylene glycol diacrylate (PEGDA) mixed with photoinitiator forms, on exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, a polymer with inherent resistance to nonspecific adsorption. Optimization of the polymerized PEGDA (poly-PEGDA) formula imbues this material with some of the same properties, including optical clarity, water stability, and low background fluorescence, that makes polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) a widely used material for microfluidics. Poly-PEGDA demonstrates less nonspecific adsorption than PDMS over a range of concentrations of flowing fluorescently tagged bovine serum albumin solutions, and poly-PEGDA has greater resistance to permeation by small hydrophobic molecules than PDMS. Poly-PEGDA also exhibits long-term (hour scale) resistance to nonspecific adsorption compared to PDMS when exposed to a low (1 μg/mL) concentration of a model adsorptive protein. Electrophoretic separations of amino acids and proteins resulted in symmetrical peaks and theoretical plate counts as high as 4 × 105/m. Pneumatically actuated, non-elastomeric membrane valves fabricated from poly-PEGDA have been characterized for temporal response, valve closure, and long-term durability. A ∼100 ms valve opening time and a ∼20 ms closure time offer valve operation as fast as 8 Hz with potential for further improvement. Comparison of circular and rectangular valve geometries indicates that the surface area for membrane interaction in the valve region is important for valve performance. After initial fabrication, the fluid pressure required to open a closed circular valve is ∼50 kPa higher than the control pressure holding the valve closed. However, after ∼1000 actuations to reconfigure polymer chains and increase elasticity in the membrane, the fluid pressure required to open a valve becomes the same as the control pressure holding the valve closed. After these initial conditioning actuations, poly-PEGDA valves show considerable robustness with no change in effective operation after 115,000 actuations.Often, localized areas of surface functionalization are desired in biosensing, necessitating site-specific derivatization. Integration of poly-PEGDA with different substrates, such as glass, silicon, or electrode-patterned materials, allows for broad application in biosensing and microfluidic devices. Deposition of 3-(trimethoxysilyl) propyl methacrylate or (3-acryloxypropyl) dimethylmethoxysilane onto these substrates makes bonding to poly-PEGDA possible under UV exposure. Primary deposition of (3-acryloxypropyl) dimethylmethoxysilane, followed by photolithographic patterning, allows for silane removal through HF surface etching in the exposed areas and subsequent deposition of 3 aminopropyldiisopropylethoxysilane on the etched regions. Fluorescent probes are used to evaluate surface attachment methods. Primary attachment via reaction of Alexa Fluor 488 TFP ester to the patterned aminosilane demonstrates excellent fluorescent signal. Initial results with glutaraldehyde were demonstrated but require more optimization before this method for secondary attachment is viable. Fabrication of 3D printed microfluidic devices with integrated membrane-based valves is performed with a low-cost, commercially available stereolithographic 3D printer and a custom PEGDA resin formulation tailored for low non-specific protein adsorption. Horizontal microfluidic channels with designed rectangular cross sectional dimensions as small as 350 µm wide and 250 µm tall are printed with 100% yield, as are cylindrical vertical microfluidic channels with 350 µm designed (210 µm actual) diameters. Valves are fabricated with a membrane consisting of a single build layer. The fluid pressure required to open a closed valve is the same as the control pressure holding the valve closed. 3D printed valves are successfully demonstrated for up to 800 actuations. Poly-PEGDA is a versatile material for microfluidic applications ranging from electrophoretic separations, valve implementation, and heterogeneous material integration. Further improvements in PEGDA resin formulation, in combination with a UV source 3D printer, will provide poly-PEGDA devices that are not only rapidly fabricated (<40 min per device), but that also include pumps and valves and are usable with a variety of detection methods, such as laser-induced fluorescence and immunoassays, for broad application in biosensing.



College and Department

Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Chemistry and Biochemistry



Date Submitted


Document Type





Poly-PEGDA, Non-adsorptive polymer, Membrane valve, Valve characterization, 3D printed valve, Microchip electrophoresis, Bioanalytical



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Chemistry Commons