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Microfluidics Glossary

Terms and Definitions used in the Microfluidics Industry

Microfludics Terms and Definitions

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3D Printing
Additive manufacturing techniques used to fabricate complex microfluidic structures and components with high precision and customization. Current 3D printers offer a range of materials that have different durometers and biocompatibility. While it is possible to form internal channels, 3D printed features are often used to create tools to produce microfluidic features using embossing or injection molding.

Analytical techniques used to detect and quantify biological molecules or activities within microfluidic devices.

Biomimetic Design
Design principles inspired by biological systems used to engineer microfluidic devices with enhanced functionality and performance.

A detection element, such as an electroactive sensor, that responds specifically to an analyte of interest. The response of the sensor is proportional to the analyte concentration and is transduced by a change an electrical property of the sensor. Specificity is conferred to the sensor through surface modification with a binding moiety that is specific for the analyte of interest. The moiety can be either a protein, ssDNA, or an aptamer.

Bubble Traps
Structures incorporated into microfluidic devices to remove or prevent the formation of bubbles, which can interfere with fluid flow and analysis.

Capillary Action
The movement of fluids within narrow channels or porous materials due to surface tension and adhesion forces.

Cell Sorting
The process of separating cells based on specific characteristics such as size, morphology, or surface markers, commonly performed in microfluidic devices.

A narrow pathway within a microfluidic chip through which fluids flow.

The identification and quantification of substances within microfluidic devices using various sensors and detection methods.

Droplet Microfluidics
A technique for manipulating and analyzing small volumes of fluids, typically in the form of discrete droplets, within microfluidic devices.

Droplet Sorting
The process of sorting or redirecting individual droplets based on their properties or contents within microfluidic devices.

Droplet-Based PCR
Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) performed within discrete droplets in microfluidic devices, enabling high-throughput and efficient nucleic acid amplification.

The movement of charged particles in a fluid under the influence of an electric field, often used for separating molecules based on their charge and size in microfluidic devices.

The manipulation of droplets or liquid films on surfaces using electric fields, often employed for droplet actuation and manipulation in microfluidic chips.

Finite Element Analysis (FEA)
Computational modeling techniques used to simulate and optimize fluid flow, heat transfer, and mechanical behavior within microfluidic devices.

Flow Cell
A flow cell is characterized by a device with a fluid input and fluid output that allows controlled volumetric flow in a microfluidic device. The channel dimensions are adjusted to meet other functional requirements such a linear flow rate, or shear. The total thickness is adjusted to allow interface to a high magnification microscope objective. Flow cells can have glass microscope slides or coverslips integrated into them, with the channel being formed by a double-sided pressure sensitive adhesive layer with thicknesses between 25 microns up to 500 microns. Flow cells can be multiplexed in a single device to have multiple inlet and outlet ports, or designed to allow a single fluid stream to fill an array of channels or chambers. Inlet and Outlet ports to interface to tubing can be custom machined or 3D printed, or off the shelf components can be integrated using either threaded or pressure sensitive adhesive connections.

Flow Control
Techniques and mechanisms employed to regulate the flow of fluids within microfluidic devices.

Flow Focusing
A technique used to generate monodisperse droplets or particles by controlling the flow of fluids within microfluidic channels as it passes through a nozzle.

Fluid Circuit Technology
ALine's proprietary design and fabrication processes for creating microfluidic devices with engineered functionality such as valves, vents, pumps, metering and mixing functions. These engineered fluidic components are dropped into a design with optimized geometries and materials to simplify the execution of a complex workflow.

Fluidic Interconnects
Interfaces or connections used to interface microfluidic devices with external components such as pumps, sensors, and reservoirs. A key issue with fluidic interfaces is understanding how to transition from micron sized features in the device to connect to macro sized features typical of tubing, and standard connectors used in the instrument with standard pumps and reservoirs.

The tendency of a surface to attract water, essential for controlling fluid flow and reactions in microfluidic devices. It is characterized by a low contact angle for a droplet on the surface, or wetting out of the surface. Material hydrophilicity is needed to induce capillary flow in a microfluidic device.

The tendency of a surface to repel water, a property often manipulated in microfluidic chip design. Hydrophobicity is characterized by a large contact angle between a flat surface and an aqueous droplet. Aqueous droplets form beads on a hydrophobic surface.

Lab-on-a-Chip (LOC)
A device that integrates multiple laboratory functions onto a single chip, typically on the scale of millimeters to a few square centimeters.

Laminar Flow
The non-turbulent, smooth, parallel flow of fluids within microfluidic channels, which is a key characteristic of microfluidic systems. It is characterized by a parabolic shaped linear flow rate across the channel width and height, with the maximum linear flow rate in the middle of the channel and zero flow at the walls of the device.

Lateral Flow Devices
These devices use a method called "immunochromatographic separation" to measure the presence of an analyte. Typical examples include the at-home COVID test, and pregnancy tests . Lateral Flow Devices are the second largest, by market size, type of diagnostic test after Glucose electrochemical tests.

Fluid distribution manifolds are used for fluid management in complex fluid control systems. There are two types of manifolds that are available: 1) manifolds a made from precision machined, diffusion bonded acrylic or polycarbonate materials. They are tapped to connect to a variety of electromechanical components, such as solenoid valves, pumps, pressure regulators, and flow meters. They are intended for installation and replacement annually. 2) manifolds produced using microfluidic on-board valve technology that is controlled by external pneumatics using solenoid valves and a pressure & vacuum source. The fluid control is managed with pneumatics to including pumping and gradient generation. These manifolds are low dead volume, and separate the liquids from the electromechanical controls. They can be replaced after use and eliminate the need for washing. They are intended for replacement after an extended set of experiments or a long culture period.

An array of microscopic spots containing biological molecules such as DNA, proteins, or cells, often used for high-throughput analysis in microfluidic devices.

Microchannel Network
Interconnected channels within a microfluidic chip that facilitate fluid manipulation and transport.

The process of fabricating microfluidic devices using techniques such as photolithography, etching, and bonding.

Microfluidic Chip
A small-scale device containing channels, chambers, and other microstructures used to manipulate fluids at the microscale.

Microfluidic Control Systems
Hardware and software systems used to automate and control various aspects of fluid manipulation and analysis within microfluidic devices.

Microfluidic Heat Exchangers
Structures within microfluidic devices used to control and regulate the temperature of fluids, critical for various applications including chemical reactions and biological assays.

Microfluidic Packaging
Techniques and materials used to encapsulate and protect microfluidic devices, ensuring stability and reliability in various operating conditions and environments.

The science and technology of manipulating fluids at the micrometer scale, often on microchips, for various applications including biology, chemistry, and medicine.

The process of combining two or more fluids within a microfluidic device, often achieved through passive or active methods.

The replication of multiple identical microfluidic units or channels within a single device to increase throughput and efficiency in various applications. Requires careful management of flow control and pressure drops in the microfluidic circuit to ensure consistency of flow across each parallel channel.

On-Board Microfluidic Components
Active control elements that are part of the microfluidic device, and are controlled externally with pressure, electrical or mechanical force. On-board controls include valves, pumps, de-bubbling, and metering elements that are part of the consumable.

On-Chip Sensing
Integration of sensors and detection methods directly onto microfluidic chips for real-time monitoring and analysis of fluid properties and reactions.

Optical Microscopy
Imaging techniques used to visualize and analyze microfluidic processes and samples, often integrated with microfluidic devices for in situ analysis.

Microfluidic devices that mimic the structure and function of human organs, enabling studies of organ physiology, disease modeling, and drug testing.

PDMS (Polydimethylsiloxane)
A commonly used elastomer in microfluidics due to its transparency, flexibility, and biocompatibility.

Continuous fluid flow through microfluidic channels or chambers, often used in cell culture and tissue engineering applications.

Sample Preparation
The process needed to take a raw biological sample, such a blood, urine, saliva, or sweat, and introduce it to an assay system. For point of care devices, it often means a conditioning or dilution step to ensure variations of the sample matrix do not hinder quantitative measure of the target analyte.

The process of isolating or purifying components within a fluid sample using techniques such as chromatography or electrophoresis in microfluidic devices.

Single-Cell Analysis
Techniques for studying the properties and behaviors of individual cells within microfluidic devices, enabling precise biological and medical research.

Surface Treatment
The modification of surfaces within microfluidic devices to control fluid behavior, adhesion, or reaction kinetics.

A component within a microfluidic chip used to control or stop the flow of fluids by mechanical or pneumatic means.

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