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Electrophoresis. 2009 May;30(9):1470-81. doi: 10.1002/elps.200800595.

An accessible micro-capillary electrophoresis device using surface-tension-driven flow.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI, USA.


We present a rapidly fabricated micro-capillary electrophoresis chip that utilizes surface-tension-driven flow for sample injection and extraction of DNA. Surface-tension-driven flow (i.e. passive pumping) [G. M. Walker et al., Lab. Chip. 2002, 2, 131-134] injects a fixed volume of sample that can be predicted mathematically. Passive pumping eliminates the need for tubing, valves, syringe pumps, and other equipment typically needed for interfacing with microelectrophoresis chips. This method requires a standard micropipette to load samples before separation, and remove the resulting bands after analysis. The device was made using liquid phase photopolymerization to rapidly fabricate the chip without the need of special equipment typically associated with the construction of microelectrophoresis chips (e.g. cleanroom) [A. K. Agarwal et al., J. Micromech. Microeng. 2006, 16, 332-340; S. K. Mohanty et al., Electrophoresis 2006, 27, 3772-3778]. Batch fabrication time for the device presented here was 1.5 h including channel coating time to suppress electroosmotic flow. Devices were constructed out of poly-isobornyl acrylate and glass. A standard microscope with a UV source was used for sample detection. Separations were demonstrated using Promega BenchTop 100 bp ladder in hydroxyl ethyl cellulose (HEC) and oligonucleotides of 91 and 118 bp were used to characterize sample injection and extraction of DNA bands. The end result was an inexpensive micro-capillary electrophoresis device that uses tools (e.g. micropipette, electrophoretic power supplies, and microscopes) already present in most labs for sample manipulation and detection, making it more accessible for potential end users.

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