I'm building a small microscope through which I need to pump fluid samples to image. Currently I'm using a flow chamber from Ibidi that is perfect (length of a standard microscope slide x 5mm x 0.1mm), except that it's really not designed to be reused- one side of the channel is very thin material and cracks easily under pressure or vacuum, making it difficult to clean.

I'm also not looking to break the bank. The Ibidi channels are around $20 apiece, which would again be perfect if they were more durable for reuse.

Any suggestions?


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    – Wasabi
    Aug 11 '16 at 10:43

I believe there are 3 mainly options for this case:

  1. use microfluidic devices that are made to be reusable;
  2. use microfluidic devices that are not are not meant to be reusable but cheaper;
  3. devise a protocol of gentle cleaning.

The main options for devices made to be reusable are

  • silicon;
  • glass;
  • low temperature co-fired ceramics (LTCC).

The main options for disposable devices are

  • thermosets;
  • hydrogel;
  • thermoplastics;
  • paper;
  • elastomer (includes PDMS, which is the most commom elastoemr used in microfluidics).[1]

Which one to choose depends on your constraints of use and price. And price depends on if you can fabricate your devices or if you intend to buy it.

For imaging, probably the glass devices, which you already use, are the best choice. If you don't want to buy them, it is possible to do them, but the lack of characterisation might affect your reproducibility (about fabrication in [2]). If you are in a multidisciplinar research center there should be a microfluidics laboratory that can help you to make it, but it can take time and distract you from the focus of your research.

That said, maybe the best option is to learn a way to clean it gently. I don`t know if it can be done with with your particular device, but you can try some ideas from this document from Sigma-Aldrich for cleaning glassware: https://www.sigmaaldrich.com/content/dam/sigma-aldrich/docs/Aldrich/Bulletin/al_techbull_al228.pdf

[1] Materials for Microfluidic Chip Fabrication Kangning Ren, Jianhua Zhou, and Hongkai Wu. Accounts of Chemical Research 2013 46 (11), 2396-2406 doi: 10.1021/ar300314s

[2] Iliescu C, Taylor H, Avram M, Miao J, Franssila S. A practical guide for the fabrication of microfluidic devices using glass and silicon. Biomicrofluidics. 2012;6(1):016505-016505-16. doi:10.1063/1.3689939.


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