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Comprehensive Guide to PDMS Microfluidics: Fabrication, Advantages, and Applications

Comprehensive Guide to PDMS Microfluidics

Due to the wide range of fields that microfluidic devices are applied to, there is a need for flexibility in the materials that they are constructed from, and this is why Polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) provides so many advantages. PDMS is a versatile silicon-based organic polymer widely used in the field of microfluidics [1].

What is PDMS?

PDMS Meaning and Chemical Structure

PDMS chemical formula is (C2H6OSi)n, where n denotes the number of repeating units. The structure consists of a repeating Si-O backbone with two methyl groups attached to each silicon atom, and this is what gives PDMS its distinctive properties [2].

PDMS Chemical Formula

The chemical formula of PDMS is (C2H6OSi)n.

Polydimethylsiloxane Structure

PDMS has a linear siloxane (Si-O) backbone with organic methyl (CH3) groups attached to the silicon atoms, providing it both hydrophobic and flexible qualities.

Fabrication of PDMS Microfluidic Devices

PDMS Microfluidics Fabrication Techniques

  1. Soft Lithography
    • Master Fabrication: The process begins with the fabrication of what is known as a master mold, typically made from silicon or SU-8 photoresist, using photolithography [3].
    • Mold Preparation: The master mold is then treated with a release agent to to remove the PDMS.
    • PDMS Preparation: PDMS is mixed with a curing agent and is then degassed to remove air bubbles before being poured over the master mold [4].
    • Curing: The PDMS is cured at an elevated temperature to allow it to solidify.
    • Device Assembly: The cured PDMS is then peeled off from the mold, allowing for individual layers to be bonded together to create complex microfluidic structures.
  2. PDMS Casting and Molding
    • Casting: PDMS is poured into molds that shape and give it the desired microfluidic features.
    • Molding: Post-curing, the PDMS is demolded, which  reveals the microstructures.
  3. Bonding and Surface Treatment
    • Oxygen Plasma Treatment: Surfaces of PDMS are then treated with oxygen plasma to create the hydrophilic channels and to bond layers together.
    • Surface Modification: Various chemical treatments can be applied to modify the surface properties of PDMS to tailor it to specific applications [5].

Related: Advantages of Microfluidics Devices

Advantages of PDMS in Microfluidics

Key Benefits of Using PDMS

  1. Transparency: PDMS is transparent, allowing for easy observation of microfluidic processes under a microscope.
  2. Flexibility and Elasticity: Its flexibility also makes it suitable for creating complex and intricate microfluidic designs.
  3. Biocompatibility: PDMS is non-toxic and compatible with biological samples, making it ideal for biomedical applications. This is especially useful for new drug development.
  4. Gas Permeability: It allows gases like oxygen and carbon dioxide to diffuse through, which is beneficial for cell culture applications.
  5. Ease of Fabrication: PDMS is very easy to mold and cast, facilitating rapid prototyping and development of microfluidic devices, as well as reducing overall cost..
  6. Chemical Stability: It is chemically inert as well as resistant to many solvents, which is essential for various chemical and biological assays.

Applications of PDMS Microfluidics

Comprehensive Guide to PDMS Microfluidics

Key Areas Where PDMS Microfluidics is Applied

  1. Biomedical Research
    • PDMS microfluidic devices are used for culturing cells in controlled environments and for diagnostic devices for point-of-care testing [6].
  2. Chemical Analysis
    • PDMS microreactors are used for chemical synthesis and analysis at microscale, offering high precision and control [7].
  3. Environmental Monitoring
    • PDMS is used to fabricate sensors for monitoring environmental pollutants and analyzing water quality.
  4. Pharmaceutical Development
    • PDMS devices facilitate high-throughput screening of drug candidates, enabling efficient pharmaceutical development.
  5. Tissue Engineering
    • Organ-on-a-Chip: PDMS microfluidics is used to create organ-on-a-chip devices that mimic the functions of human organs, aiding in disease research and drug testing.


The advancements gained through PDMS microfluidics represents a significant leap in research capabilities, offering unparalleled advantages in terms of fabrication ease, flexibility, biocompatibility, and transparency. From biomedical research to environmental monitoring, the applications of PDMS microfluidic devices are not only vast but transformative. Through understanding the properties, fabrication techniques, and applications of PDMS, the ability to leverage its full potential in developing innovative microfluidic solutions that can drive progress in science, medicine, and technology is limitless.

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