November 21, 2019

Review on pneumatic operations in centrifugal microfluidics

J. F. Hess, S. Zehnle, P. Juelg, T. Hutzenlaub, R. Zengerle and N. Paust

First published: 21 November 2019


Centrifugal microfluidics allows for miniaturization, automation and parallelization of laboratory workflows. The fact that centrifugal forces are always directed radially outwards has been considered a main drawback for the implementation of complex workflows leading to the requirement of additional actuation forces for pumping, valving and switching. In this work, we review and discuss the combination of centrifugal with pneumatic forces which enables transport of even complex liquids in any direction on centrifugal systems, provides actuation for valving and switching, offers alternatives for mixing and enables accurate and precise metering and aliquoting. In addition, pneumatics can be employed for timing to carry out any of the above listed unit operations in a sequential and cascaded manner. Firstly, different methods to generate pneumatic pressures are discussed. Then, unit operations and applications that employ pneumatics are reviewed. Finally, a tutorial section discusses two examples to provide insight into the design process. The first tutorial explains a comparatively simple implementation of a pneumatic siphon valve and provides a workflow to derive optimum design parameters. The second tutorial discusses cascaded pneumatic operations consisting of temperature change rate actuated valving and subsequent pneumatic pumping. In conclusion, combining pneumatic actuation with centrifugal microfluidics allows for the design of robust fluidic networks with simple fluidic structures that are implemented in a monolithic fashion. No coatings are required and the overall demands on manufacturing are comparatively low. We see the combination of centrifugal forces with pneumatic actuation as a key enabling technology to facilitate compact and robust automation of biochemical analysis.