Analytical and Experimental Investigation of Insect Respiratory System Inspired Microfluidics
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Microfluidics has been the focal point of research in various disciplines due to its advantages of portability and cost effectiveness, and the ability to perform complex tasks with precision. In the past two decades microfluidic technology has been used to cool integrated circuits, for exoplanetary chemical analysis, for mimicking cellular environments, and in the design of specialized organ-on-a-chip devices. While there have been considerable advances in the complexity and miniaturization of microfluidic devices, particularly with the advent of microfluidic large-scale integration (mLSI) and microfluidic very-large-scale-integration (mVLSI), in which there are hundreds of thousands of flow channels per square centimeter on a microfluidic chip, there remains an actuation overhead problem: these small, complex microfluidic devices are tethered to extensive off-chip actuation machinery that limit their portability and efficiency. Insects, in contrast, actively and efficiently handle their respiratory air flows in complex networks consisting of thousands of microscale tracheal pathways. This work analytically and experimentally investigates the viability of incorporating some of the essential kinematics and actuation strategies of insect respiratory systems in microfluidic devices. Mathematical models of simplified individual tracheal pathways were derived and analyzed, and insect-mimetic PDMS-based valveless microfluidic devices were fabricated and tested. It was found that not only are these devices are capable of pumping fluids very efficiently using insect-mimetic actuation techniques, but also that the fluid flow direction and magnitude could be controlled via the actuation frequency alone, a feature never before realized in microfluidic devices. These results suggest that insect-mimicry may be a promising direction for designing more efficient microfluidic devices.
General Audience Abstract
Microfluidics or the study of fluids at the microscale has gained a lot of interest in the recent past due to its various applications starting from electronic chip cooling to biomedical diagnostic devices and exoplanetary chemical analysis. Though there has been a lot of advancements in the functionality and portability of microfluidic devices, little has been achieved in the improvement of the peripheral machinery needed to operate these devices. On the other hand insects can expertly manipulate fluids, in their body, at the microscale with the help of their efficient respiratory capabilities. In the present study we mimic some essential features of the insect respiratory system by incorporating them in microfluidic devices. The feasibility of practical application of these techniques have been tested, at first, analytically by mathematically modeling the fluid flow in insect respiratory tract mimetic microchannels and tubes and then by fabricating, testing and analyzing the functionality of microfluidic devices. The mathematical models, using slip boundary conditions, showed that the volumetric fluid flow through a trachea mimetic tube decreased with the increase in the amount of slip. Apart from that it also revealed a fundamental difference between shear and pressure driven flow at the microscale. The microfluidic devices exhibited some unique characteristic features never seen before in valveless microfluidic devices and have the potential in reducing the actuation overhead. These devices can be used to simplify the operating procedure and subsequently decrease the production cost of microfluidic devices for various applications.
- Doctoral Dissertations