A simple and low cost method to fabricate NOA microfluidic chips

Gabriele Pitingolo1, Raffaele Vecchione1,3 and Paolo A. Netti1,2,3

1 Center for Advanced Biomaterials for Healthcare, Istituto Italiano di tecnologia (IIT@CRIB), Largo Barsanti e Matteucci, 53, 80125, Naples, Italy.

2 Dipartimento di Ingegneria Chimica, dei Materiali e della Produzione Industriale D.I.C.MA.P.I, Università di  Napoli  Federico II, Naples 80125, Italy.

3 Centro di Ricerca Interdipartimentale sui Biomateriali (CRIB), Università di Napoli Federico II, p.le Tecchio 80, Naples, 80125, Italy

Why is this useful?


Microfluidic chips are often made of silicon or glass which presents the drawbacks of being relatively expensive, time consuming and has limitations to the geometries that can be realized. PMMA is an optimal solution to overcome these aspects but it presents a low chemical resistance to organic solvents and aggressive chemicals

Norland Optical Adhesive 60 (“NOA60”) is a clear, colorless, liquid photopolymer that cures when exposed to ultraviolet light1. Surface bonding can be activated with light therefore monolithic and transparent devices especially useful for optical elements can be realized. In particular, the use of NOA 60 eliminates premixing, drying, or heat curing operations common to other optical adhesive systems. Curing time is a matter of minutes and is dependent upon the thickness applied and the energy of ultraviolet light available. Dupont and colleagues have recently developed a NOA microfluidic channel via a photolithography multistep method that presents a long time process2.

Here, we demonstrate the possibility to micromachine already cured NOA substrates by micromilling that is much easier and cheaper than photolithographic techniques for fabrication of microchannels or microstructures in general.  In addition, by micromilling it is possible to easily drill and make open channels in NOA substrates if needed. Also, in the case of microstructures on the two layers to be bonded if one layer presents microstructures with feature sizes below 25 micron and one substrate with feature sizes above this value then it is possible to prepare one substrate by photolithographic techniques and the other substrate by micromilling with following bonding, saving time and money.

What do I need?


  • Fully cured PDMS mold
  • Norland Optical Adhesive 60
  • UV light (E-Series Ultraviolet Hand Lamps)
  • Micromachining machine
  • Oxygen plasma machine
  • Clamp

What do I do?


1. Pour liquid photopolymer NOA into a preformed PDMS mold covering the entire surface (figure 1A). After a few minutes to stabilize the liquid polymer put the PDMS mold under UV light for 30 minutes at a  365 nm wavelength (fig.1B).

2. After the curing time, NOA substrate is ready to use; to fabricate a microfluidic chip two NOA substrates are prepared. NOA substrates are replicated onto flat PDMS surfaces exploiting the flexibility of the PDMS mold as shown in figures 2A and 2B.

3. Take the NOA substrate and mill a channel and related inlet/outlet holes using a micromilling machine (Minitech CNC Mini-Mill) (fig. 3A-3B), the certified positioning accuracy of the three-axis are 12″ / 300mm in x-axis, 9″ / 228mm in y-axis, and 9″ / 228mm in z-axis. To minimize the experimental uncertainty, the NOA substrates preformed in point 2 are smoothed before milling.

4. Prepare the NOA channel (clean with water and dry with an absorbent cloth) and  treat the channel and top layer by exposing to oxygen plasma for 60s, at a pressure less than 0.1 Torr and with a plasma power of 20 W (fig 4A). Clamp the two substrates and put the clamped channel under UV-light for 1 h finalizes the bonding process (fig 4B).

5. Your well-bonded NOA microfluidic chip (Figure 5) is now ready to use.


References

  1. https://www.norlandprod.com/literature/60tds.pdf
  2. E. P. Dupont, R. Luisier and M. A. M. Gijs, Microelectronic Engineering, 2010, 87, 1253-1255.
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