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Single-step replicable microfluidic check valve for rectifying and sensing low Reynolds number flow

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This paper presents a new microfluidic check valve well suited for low Reynolds number flow rate sensing, micropump flow rectification, and flow control in lab-on-a-chip devices. The valve uses coupling between fluid movement in a channel and an elastomeric column (flap) suspended in the fluid path to generate a strong anisotropic flow resistance. Soft lithography-based molding techniques were used to fabricate the valve, allowing for a low-cost, single-step fabrication process. Three valves—having heights of 25, 50, and 75 μm, respectively—were fabricated and experimentally evaluated; the best of them demonstrated a maximum fluidic diodicity of 4.6 at a Reynolds number of 12.6 and a significant diodicity of 1.6 at the low Reynolds number of 0.7. The valve’s notable low Reynolds number response was realized by adopting a design methodology that balances the stiffness of the elastomer flap and adhesion forces between the flap and its seat. A pair of elastomer check valves integrated with a miniature membrane actuator demonstrated a flow rectification efficiency of 29.8%. The valve’s other notable features include a wide bandwidth response, the ability to admit particles without becoming jammed, and flow rate sensing capability based on optical flap displacement measurements.

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a :

gap between the flap and the valve seat

b :

valve seat width

c :

flap clearance

δ :

flap tip deflection

E :

modulus of elasticity

h :

channel height (depth)

I :

second moment of area

l :

length of the flap not in contact with the seat

L :

flap length

ρ flap :

flap density

ρ fluid :

fluid density

ΔP block :

valve blocking pressure

ΔP free :

valve pressure drop in the free flow direction

ΔP flap :

uniform pressure difference across the flap

Q :

volume flow rate

t :

flap thickness

μ :

mass per unit length of the flap

U :

strain energy

w 1 :

channel width

w 2 :

width of channel containing flap

w 3 :

flap width

ω fluid :

first natural frequency of the flap in a fluid

ω free :

first natural frequency of the flap in free space

γ s :

interfacial surface energy


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The authors are grateful for the support of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Scientific Research (A) (No. 14205037 and No. 15201033), and the Center of Excellence for Research and Education.

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Correspondence to J. Loverich.

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Loverich, J., Kanno, I. & Kotera, H. Single-step replicable microfluidic check valve for rectifying and sensing low Reynolds number flow. Microfluid Nanofluid 3, 427–435 (2007).

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