Analytical and Experimental Investigation of Insect Respiratory System Inspired Microfluidics

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Virginia Tech

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.

Microfluidics, insect-inspired, microscale pumping, slip boundary conditions, single actuation, frequency dependent flow control