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Meas Sci Technol. 2003 Aug;14(8):1321-1327.

An electric impedance based microelectromechanical system flow sensor for ionic solutions.

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Department of Bioengineering, Unversity of Utah, 50 South Central Campus Drive 2480 MEB, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA.


Microfluidic devices with channel cross sections measuring 4 × 10 μm(2) instrumented with gold microelectrodes were used to sense flow rates of ionic solutions on the basis of electric impedance (EI) measured perpendicular to the flow. Negative pressures were applied to access ports of the microdevices to generate flow of saline solutions (physiologic concentrations 0.9%) through the micro-EI recording zone with flow rates between 2.4 and 4.8 μl min(-1). The EI spectra (100 Hz-20 MHz) recorded under flow conditions were compared with the no-flow condition. Changes in the magnitude of EI (at 350 Hz) for flow rates as low as 2.4 μl min(-1) were statistically significant compared with the no-flow condition. The observed dependence of EI on flow rate is attributed to the relative difference between the rate of migration of charge-balancing electrolyte ions to the electrode surface and the rate of removal of the same ions by forced convection. An electrochemical convection-diffusion model was used to study the observed dependence on flow. Simulations support the conceptual model that passing DC current from the gold electrodes into the ionic solution results in an increase in ionic concentration near the electrode surface (due to the inward migration of counter-balancing ions). When the fluid flow rates increase, these counter-balancing ions are replaced by the bulk solution, thereby lowering the average ionic concentration within the recording zone. This local concentration drop results in an increase in the real part of the impedance.

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