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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 May 18;101(20):7516-21. Epub 2004 May 10.

Structural and functional imaging of 3D microfluidic mixers using optical coherence tomography.

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Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL 61801, USA.


To achieve high mixing efficiency in microfluidic devices, complex designs are often required. Microfluidic devices have been evaluated with light and confocal microscopy, but fluid-flow characteristics at different depths are difficult to separate from the en face images produced. By using optical coherence tomography (OCT), an imaging modality capable of imaging 3D microstructures at micrometer-scale resolutions over millimeter-size scales, we obtained 3D dynamic functional and structural data for three representative microfluidic mixers: a Y channel mixer, a 3D serpentine mixer, and a vortex mixer. In the serpentine mixer, OCT image analysis revealed that the mixing efficiency was linearly dependent on the Reynolds number, whereas it appeared to have exponential dependence when imaged with light microscopy. The visual overlap of fluid flows in light-microscopy images leads to an overestimation of the mixing efficiency, an effect that was eliminated with OCT imaging. Doppler OCT measurements determined velocity profiles at various points in the serpentine mixer. Mixing patterns in the vortex mixer were compared with light-microscopy and OCT image analysis. These results demonstrate that OCT can significantly improve the characterization of 3D microfluidic device structure and function.

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