Injection and flow control system for microchannels
Published 01 Aug. 2004
In spite of considerable efforts, flow control in micro-channels remains a challenge owing to the very small ratio of channel/supply-system volumes, as well as the induction of spurious flows by extremely small pressure or geometry changes. We present here an inexpensive and robust system for flow control in a microchannel system, based on a dynamic control of reservoir pressures at the end of each channel. This system allows flow equilibration with a time constant smaller than one second, and is also able to maintain stable flux from stopped flow to many mul min(-1) range over several hours. It is robust to changes in ambient pressure and temperature. This system further includes a feature for sub-microliter sample injection during the experiment. We quantify flow control in elastomer and thermoplastic channels, and demonstrate the impact on one application of the system, namely the reproducible, automated separation of large DNA by electrophoresis in a selforganized magnetic bead matrix in a microchannel.