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Anal Chem. 2011 Feb 15;83(4):1408-17. doi: 10.1021/ac102897h. Epub 2011 Jan 24.

Rapid prototyping of arrayed microfluidic systems in polystyrene for cell-based assays.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, Wisconsin Institutes for Medical Research, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin 53705, USA.


Microfluidic cell-based systems have enabled the study of cellular phenomena with improved spatiotemporal control of the microenvironment and at increased throughput. While poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS) has emerged as the most popular material in microfluidics research, it has specific limitations that prevent microfluidic platforms from achieving their full potential. We present here a complete process, ranging from mold design to embossing and bonding, that describes the fabrication of polystyrene (PS) microfluidic devices with similar cost and time expenditures as PDMS-based devices. Emphasis was placed on creating methods that can compete with PDMS fabrication methods in terms of robustness, complexity, and time requirements. To achieve this goal, several improvements were made to remove critical bottlenecks in existing PS embossing methods. First, traditional lithographic techniques were adapted to fabricate bulk epoxy molds capable of resisting high temperatures and pressures. Second, a method was developed to emboss through-holes in a PS layer, enabling creation of large arrays of independent microfluidic systems on a single device without need to manually create access ports. Third, thermal bonding of PS layers was optimized in order to achieve quality bonding over large arrays of microsystems. The choice of materials and methods was validated for biological function in two different cell-based applications to demonstrate the versatility of our streamlined fabrication process.

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