Electrically Actuated Micropost Arrays for Droplet Manipulation

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Gerson, Jonas Elliott
superhydrophobic , wetting gradient , droplet microfluidics , PDMS , polydimethylsiloxane , titanium dioxide , digital microfluidics , lab on a chip , micropost , micropillar , array , dielectric elastomer actuator , high aspect ratio
Precise manipulation of heterogeneous droplets on an open droplet microfluidic platform could have numerous practical advantages in a broad range of applications, from proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells and microreactors, to medical diagnostic platforms capable of assaying complex biological analytes. Toward the aim of developing electrically controllable micropost arrays for use in open droplet manipulation, custom-designed titanium dioxide (TiO2)- loaded poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS) micropost arrays were developed in this work and indirectly mechanically actuated by applying an electric field. Initial experiments explored the bulk properties of TiO2-loaded PDMS films, with scanning electron microscopy (SEM) confirming a uniform TiO2 particle distribution in the PDMS, and tensile testing of bulk films showing an inverse relationship between TiO2 % (w/w) and Young’s Modulus with the Young’s Moduli quantified as 4.22 ± 0.51 MPa for unloaded PDMS, 2.27 ± 0.18 MPa for 10 % (w/w) TiO2, and 1.39 ± 0.20 MPa for 20 % (w/w) TiO2. Following bulk material evaluation, soft lithography methods were developed to fabricate TiO2- loaded PDMS micropost arrays. Mathematical predictions were applied to design microposts of varying shape, length, and gap spacing to yield super-hydrophobic surfaces actuatable by an electric field. Visual inspection and optical microscopy of the resulting arrays confirmed a non- collapsed micropost geometry. Overall, round microposts that were 100, 200, and 300 μm in length, 15 μm in diameter, and spaced 50 μm apart were produced largely free of defects, and used in contact angle measurements and micropost deflection experiments. Droplet contact angles measured on the arrays remained above 120° indicating the arrays successfully provided super- hydrophobic surfaces. Individual microposts deflected most notably above an electric field strength of 520 kV/m (12.5 kV nominal voltage). The ability to mechanically deflect customized microposts using an electric field demonstrated by this work is promising for translating this technology to precise droplet manipulation applications. Indirect actuation of droplets could enable the manipulation of liquids with varying electrical properties, which is a limitation of current micropumping technologies. Once optimized, electrically actuated micropost arrays could significantly contribute to the micro- handling of heterogeneous, highly ionic, and/or deionized fluids.
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