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Lab on a chip:

Introduction
The basic principle of Lab-on-a-chip device is, as the name suggests, integrating
all the functions of a human-scale test laboratory including transferring samples,
drawing off a precise volume of a chemical product, mixing with reagents,
heating, titration, etc. on a system of a few square centimetres. The first
essential need for the manipulation of small quantities of liquid or gas fluids is
micro-plumbing, in other words a network of microchannels with dimensions
typically between 10 and 100 m. The first demonstrators were made from glass
or silicon, thus benefiting from the wide experience in micro-engineering
acquired through microelectronics but now more durable and efficient PDMS
moulding technologies are used. The extreme simplicity and the impressive
robustness of this process enable scientists from all backgrounds to get involved
in the adventure without needing high technology facilities. However, a lab-on-
chip is not simply a network of
microchannels. It also includes other functions depending on the application such
as pumps, valves, sensors, electronics, etc. Therefore, it can be considered as a
complex microsystem including mechanical, electronic, fluid functions, etc.

Components of a Lab-on-chip device

Earlier Diagnostic Technologies


The concept of microsystems (MEMSMicro-Electro-Mechanical System in the
United States, MSTMicroSystem Technologies in Europe) emerged during the
1980s at the University of Berkeley as the integration of the different functions of
a complete system on a single chip. MEMS technology takes advantages from
microelectronic production tools that allow for the manufacturing of thousands of
miniaturized objects in parallel and thus that reduces drastically manufacturing
costs.
Systems are also much smaller and much more reliable due to integration and
elimination of connections between components. Finally, miniaturization provides
a means of performing new functions that cannot be done in any other way, for
example such as switching of
optical signals by micromirrors. One of the initial technologies contained Glass
and Silica as the manufacturing material. Other earlier process includes SCREAM
i.e. single crystal reactive ion etching and metallization technology.
Working of Lab-on-a-chip
The working of the device can be broadly categorised into 3 sections:
1. Sealing
2. Fluidic connection
3. Electrical connection

I. Sealing
LOC devices are typically sealed to (1) confine solvents, samples and
reagents in defined volumes, (2) prevent uncontrolled spreading of liquids
along wettable areas, (3) reduce contamination and biohazards, (4)
minimize adversary evaporation of samples and
reagents from chips, and (5) protect sensitive and fragile structures or
molecules from dust or physical impacts. Sealing can either be done by
conformal or non-conformal materials.
PDMS (Polydimethylsiloxane) has become by far the most popular material
in the academic microfluidics community because it is inexpensive, easy
to fabricate by replication of moulds made using rapid prototyping or other
techniques, flexible, optically transparent,
biocompatible and its fabrication does not require high capital investment
and cleanroom conditions.
However, it is known to have some drawbacks, such as adsorption of
hydrophobic molecules, short-term stability after surface treatment,
swelling in organic solvents, water permeability, and incompatibility with
very high pressure operations.
Due to all these drawbacks, thermoplastic have been preferred as low-cost
and mass-producible alternatives to PDMS as well as to silicon and glass.
Thermoplastics show a wide variety of material properties that are
attractive for LOC applications.
II. Fluidic connection
Besides a high-quality sealing, an equally important factor for a functional
LOC device is a reliable fluidic interface between the chip and the
peripherals (e.g. external pumps, valves, tubings etc). There are a few
standards for fluidic interfacing, such as Luer Lock and Luer
Cone, but these are suitable for a small number of applications and not
readily compatible with most of fabrication techniques. Ideally, a fluidic
interconnect should (1) have minimal dead volume, (2) avoid cross-
contamination of samples, (3) be easy to plug, (4) be removable and
reusable, (5) be reliable at high pressures, (6) be small enough to allow
high density connections, (7) be made using simple and low-cost
techniques, (8) be chemically inert, and (9) be compatible with
commercial tubings and fittings.

One of the most straightforward fluidic interfacing techniques is based on


the insertion of a tubing to a receiving opening that is defined on the
cover layer or on the substrate of a microfluidic device. Owing to its
conformal sealing property, PDMS is also widely used as a gasket material
for reversible fluidic interconnections inserted into LOC devices that are
made of other materials, such as plastics, glass, and SU-8.

III. Electrical connections

Many LOC devices utilize liquid/particle control or sensing techniques


based on optical, magnetic, or electrical principles and these devices
therefore need power and electrical connections. LOC applications based
on electrical principles, such as electrochemical-
or impedance-based sensing, particle manipulation based on
dielectrophoresis, electrokinetic separation, electroosmotic flow
generation, droplet manipulation by electrowetting, make use of
integrated electrodes, which are patterned inside the microfluidic
structures. In the MEMS/microelectronics industry, permanent electrical
connections such as the ones based on wire bonding, flip-chip bonding,
soldering, or application of a conductive paste/film are often preferred
because the devices are meant to function for extended durations. These
connections consist of edge connectors and sockets,
Pogo pins and spring-loaded contacts and advanced packaging & sensors.