Self-priming of liquids in capillary autonomous microfluidic systems

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We present a numerical approach to the capillary rise dynamics in microfluidic channels of complex 3D geometries. In order to optimize the delivery of specific biological fluids to target regions in microfluidic capillary autonomous systems (CAS), we analyze self-priming of liquid water into a microfluidic device consisting of a microfluidic channel that feeds a rectangular microfluidic cavity trough an appropriately designed micro-chamber. The target performance criteria in our optimization are (1) fast and complete wetting of the cavity bottom while (2) minimizing the probability of trapping air bubble in the device. The numerical model is based on the lattice Boltzmann method (LBM) and a three-dimensional single-component multiple-phase (SCMP) scheme. By using a parallel implementation of this algorithm, we investigate the physical processes related to the invasion of the liquid–gas interfaces in rectangular cavities at different liquid–solid contact angle and shapes of the transition micro-chamber. The numerical results has successfully captured important qualitative and some key quantitative effects of the liquid–solid contact angle, the roughness of the cavity edges, the depth of the holes and shape of the micro-chambers. Moreover, we present and validate experimentally simple geometrical optimizations of the microfluidic device that ensure the complete filling the microfluidic cavity with liquid. Critical parameters related to the overall priming time of the device are presented as well.

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This work was supported by the Genomic and Health Initiative of the National Research Council of Canada and the Industrial Materials Institute of the National Research Council of Canada. Computational facilities were provided by Réseau Québécois de Calcul Haute Performance (RQCHP).

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Correspondence to L. Clime.

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Clime, L., Brassard, D., Pezacki, J.P. et al. Self-priming of liquids in capillary autonomous microfluidic systems. Microfluid Nanofluid 12, 371–382 (2012).

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  • 3D microfluidics
  • Capillary flows
  • Lattice Boltzmann method
  • Wetting
  • Contact line dynamics