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Smart monolithic integration of inkjet printed thermal flow sensors with fast prototyping polymer microfluidics

I. Etxebarria, J. Elizalde and R. Pacios

Smart Materials and Structures


There is an increasing demand for built-in flow sensors in order to effectively control microfluidic processes due to the high number of available microfluidic applications. The possible solutions should be inexpensive and easy to connect to both, the microscale features and the macro setup. In this paper, we present a novel approach to integrate a printed thermal flow sensor with polymeric microfluidic channels. This approach is focused on merging two high throughput production processes, namely inkjet printing and fast prototyping technologies, in order to produce trustworthy and low cost devices. These two technologies are brought together to obtain a sensor located outside the microfluidic device. This avoids the critical contact between the sensor material and the fluids through the microchannels that can seriously damage the conducting paths under continuous working regimes. In this way, we ensure reliable and stable operation modes. For this application, a silver nanoparticle based ink and cyclic olefin polymer were used. This flow sensor operates linearly in the range of 0–10 μl min−1 for water and 0–20 μl min−1 for ethanol in calorimetric mode. Switching to anemometric mode, the range can be expanded up to 40 μl min−1.

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