Easy-to-attach vacuum modules with biochips for droplets generation from small sample volumes


This study developed a droplet biochip driven with a single vacuum module to produce droplets from small sample volumes. The vacuum module is composed of a shape memory polymer, which releases prestored energy for shape recovery when subjected to heat trigger, and works as an easy-to-attach vacuum source. The three-layer Teflon mold is designed to manufacture a vacuum module with a favorable yield (>95%). The water-in-oil emulsion droplets can be produced by attaching a single vacuum module with a microfluidic chip. The diameter of the vacuum module has been successfully reduced to 6 mm. The maximum driving pressure provided by the 15-mm diameter vacuum module attached with a 2 μL chip is approximately 9653 Pa. The produced flow rate varies with the deformation rate of the vacuum module and becomes stable at 2.4 µL/min during the droplet generation. The droplet diameters range from 180 to 240 µm. The developed disposable vacuum module is easy to attach, easy to use, easy to make, cost-effective, and automatically controllable for driving fluids on a chip for handling small sample volumes.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Access options

Buy single article

Instant unlimited access to the full article PDF.

US$ 39.95

Price includes VAT for USA

Subscribe to journal

Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.

US$ 99

This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5


  1. Bilitewski U, Genrich M, Kadow S, Mersal G (2003) Biochemical analysis with microfluidic systems. Anal Bioanal Chem 377:556–569

  2. Do J, Lee S, Han J, Kai J, Hong C-C, Gao C, Nevin JH, Beaucage G, Ahn CH (2008) Development of functional lab-on-a-chip on polymer for point-of-care testing of metabolic parameters. Lab Chip 8(12):2113–2120

  3. Fang WF, Lee AP (2015) LCAT pump optimization for an integrated microfluidic droplet generator. Microfluid Nanofluid 18:1265–1275

  4. Fang Y, Ni Y, Choi B, Leo S-Y, Gao J, Ge B, Taylor C, Basile V, Jiang P (2015) Chromogenic photonic crystals enabled by novel Vapor-responsive shape-memory polymers. Adv Mater 27:3696–3704

  5. Haeberle S, Zengerle R (2007) Microfluidic platforms for lab-on-a-chip applications. Lab Chip 7:1094–1220

  6. Haeberle S, Zengerle R, Ducree J (2007) Centrifugal generation and manipulation of droplet emulsions. Microfluid Nanofluid 3:65–75

  7. Harsen AS, Hao N, O’shea EK (2015) High-throughput microfluidics to control and measure signalling dynamics in single yeast cells. Nat Protoc 10:1181–1197

  8. Hatch AC, Fisher JS, Tovar AR (2011) 1-Million droplet array with wide-field fluorescence imaging for digital PCR. Lab Chip 11:3838–3845

  9. Hearon K, Wierzbicki MA, Nash LD, Landsman TL, Laramy C, Lonnecker AT, Gibbons MC, Ur S, Cardinal KO, Wilson TS, Wooley KL, Maitland DJ (2015) A processable shape memory polymer system for biomedical applications. Adv Healthc Mater 4(9):1386–1398

  10. Hong CC, Chen JC (2011) Pre-programmable polymer transformers as on-chip microfluidic vacuum generators. Microfluid Nanofluid 11:385–393

  11. Hong CC, Murugesan S, Kim S, Beaucage G, Choi JW, Ahn CH (2003) A functional on-chip pressure generator using solid chemical propellant for disposable labon- a-chip. Lab Chip 3:281–286

  12. Hong C-C, Choi J-W, Ahn CH (2007) An on-chip air-bursting detonator for driving fluids on disposable lab-on-a-chip systems. J Micromech Microeng 17:410–417

  13. Iwai K, Shih KC, Lin X, Brubaker TA, Sochol RD, Lin L (2014) Finger-powered microfluidic systems using multilayer soft lithography and injection molding processes. Lab Chip 14:3790–3799

  14. Li J, Wang Y, Dong E, Chen H (2014) USB-driven microfluidic chips on printed circuit boards. Lab Chip 14:860–864

  15. Li C, Xu J, Ma B (2015) A self-powered microfluidic monodispersed droplet generator with capability of multi-sample introduction. Microfluid Nanofluid 18:1067–1073

  16. Martinez AW, Phillips ST, Wiley BJ, Gupta M, Whitesides GM (2008) FLASH: a rapid method for prototyping paper-based microfluidic devices. Lab Chip 8:2146–2150

  17. Meier T, Bur J, Reinhard M, Schneider M, Kolew A, Worgull M, Hölscher H (2015) Programmable and self-demolding microstructured molds fabricated from shape-memory polymers. J Micromech Microeng 25:065017

  18. Parhizkar M, Stride E, Edirisinghe M (2014) Preparation of monodisperse microbubbles using an integrated embedded capillary T-junction with electrohydrodynamic focusing. Lab Chip 14:2437–2446

  19. Skelley AM, Kirak O, Suh H, Jaenisch R, Voldman J (2009) Microfluidic control of cell pairing and fusion. Nat Methods 6:147–152

  20. Song Y, Hormes J, Kumar CSSR (2008) Microfluidic synthesis of nanomaterials. Small 4(6):698–711

  21. Su YC, Lin L (2004) A water-powered micro drug delivery system. J Microelectromech Syst 13:75–82

  22. Tormos JC, Lieber D, Baret J-C, El-Harrak A, Miller OJ, Frenz L, Blouwolff J, Humphry KJ, Kster S, Duan H, Holtze C, Weitz DA, Griffiths AD, Merten CA (2008) Droplet-based microfluidic platforms for the encapsulation and screening of mammalian cells and multicellular organisms. Chem Biol 15:427–437

  23. Wang CH, Kang ST, Lee YH, Huang YF, Yeh CK (2012) Aptamer-conjugated and drug-loaded acoustic droplets for ultrasound theranosis. Biomaterials 33:1939–1947

  24. Whitesides GM (2006) The origins and the future of microfluidics. Nature 442(7101):368–373

  25. Xu L, Lee H, Jetta D, Oh KW (2015) Vacuum-driven power-free microfluidics utilizing the gas solubility or permeability of polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS). Lab Chip 15:3962–3979

  26. Yu X, Cheng G, Zhou M-D, Zheng S-Y (2015) On-demand one-step synthesis of monodisperse functional polymeric microspheres with droplet microfluidics. Langmuir 31:3982–3992

  27. Zimmermann M, Schmid H, Hunziker P, Delamarche E (2007) Capillary pumps for autonomous capillary systems. Lab Chip 7:119–125

Download references


This research was supported by the Ministry of Science and Technology of Taiwan (MOST 104-2627-B-007-002).

Author information

Correspondence to Chien-Chong Hong.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary material 2 (MP4 9622 kb)

Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 1556 kb)

Supplementary material 2 (MP4 9622 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Lee, C., Hong, C. Easy-to-attach vacuum modules with biochips for droplets generation from small sample volumes. Microfluid Nanofluid 20, 158 (2016).

Download citation


  • Vacuum module
  • Shape memory polymer
  • Droplet generation
  • Microfluidic chip