Solvent-dependent on/off valving using selectively permeable barriers in paper microfluidics

G.I.J. Salentijn, N.N. Hamidon, E. Verpoorte

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We report on a new way to control solvent flows in paper microfluidic devices, based on the local patterning of paper with alkyl ketene dimer (AKD) to form barriers with selective permeability for different solvents. Production of the devices is a two-step process. In the first step, AKD-treated paper (hydrophobic) is exposed to oxygen plasma for re-hydrophilization. 3D-printed masks are employed to shield certain areas of this paper to preserve well-defined hydrophobic patterns. In the second step, concentrated AKD in hexane is selectively deposited onto already hydrophobic regions of the paper to locally increase the degree of hydrophobicity. Hydrophilic areas formed in the previous oxygen plasma step are protected from AKD by wetting them with water first to prevent the AKD hexane solution from entering them (hydrophilic exclusion). Characterization of the patterns after both steps shows that reproducible patterns are obtained with linear dependence on the dimensions of the 3D-printed masks. This two-step methodology leads to differential hydrophobicity on the paper: (i) hydrophilic regions, (ii) low-load AKD gates, and (iii) high-load AKD walls. The gates are impermeable to water, yet can be penetrated by most alcohol/water mixtures; the walls cannot. This concept for solvent-dependent on/off valving is demonstrated in two applications. In the first example, a device was developed for multi-step chemical reactions. Different compounds can be spotted separately (closed gates). Upon elution with an alcohol/water mixture, the gates become permeable and the contents are combined. In the second example, volume-defined sampling is introduced. Aqueous sample is allowed to wick into a device and fill a sample chamber. The contents of this sample chamber are eluted perpendicularly with an alcohol/water mixture through a selectively permeable gate. This system was tested with dye solution, and a linear dependence of magnitude of the signal on the sample chamber size was obtained.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1013-1021
Number of pages9
JournalLab on a Chip - Miniaturisation for Chemistry and Biology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 21-Mar-2016


  • chemical reaction
  • elution
  • exposure
  • human
  • human tissue
  • hydrophilicity
  • hydrophobicity
  • mask
  • plasma
  • sampling
  • alcohol
  • dimer
  • hexane
  • oxygen
  • solvent
  • water

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