Optimization of micromilled channels for microfluidic applications using gas-blowing-assisted PDMS coating

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Micromilling is a flexible, inexpensive and rapid prototyping technique for polymer microfluidic devices. However, the applications of microfluidic devices fabricated by micromilling have been compromised by their poor surface quality. In this study, we demonstrated a gas-blowing-assisted (GBA) polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) coating that is used to reduce the surface roughness of micromilled channels, yielding optical grade channel walls while simultaneously offering high flexibility in channel dimensions and morphology by controlling the coating parameters. In this method, a thin layer of PDMS is coated on the engraved substrate, and then a computer numerical control (CNC)-guided gas-blowing is used to selectively remove surplus PDMS prepolymer in channels, which results in a thin residual and smooth PDMS coating on the walls of channels. With this GBA PDMS coating, the channel surface roughness of below 8 nm could be achieved without the need of advanced polishing equipment or procedures. Furthermore, this method has the capability to fabricate non-rectangular microchannels with different shapes in cross-section depending on the process parameters, which benefits microvascular research and tissue engineering.

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We would like to thank Mr. Xiong Zeng for his help in correcting the language of this article. This work was supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 61974012, 61771078 and 21827812), the Chongqing Research Program of Basic Research and Frontier Technology (No. cstc2017jcyjBX0036), the Chongqing Technical Innovation and Application Demonstration Program (No. cstc2018jscx-mszdX0073), and the National Postdoctoral Program for Innovative Talents (No. BX20190049).

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Correspondence to Gang Li.

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Liu, X., Dong, Z., Zhao, Q. et al. Optimization of micromilled channels for microfluidic applications using gas-blowing-assisted PDMS coating. Microfluid Nanofluid 24, 11 (2020) doi:10.1007/s10404-019-2315-x

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  • Micromilling
  • Polymer
  • Surface roughness
  • PDMS coating
  • Microfluidics