Dynamic air/liquid pockets for guiding microscale flow


Hou X, Li J, Tesler AB, Yao Y, Wang M, Min L, Sheng Z, Aizenberg J. Dynamic air/liquid pockets for guiding microscale flow. Nat. Commun. 2018;9 :733.


Microscale flows of fluids are mainly guided either by solid matrices or by liquid–liquid interfaces. However, the solid matrices are plagued with persistent fouling problems, while liquid–liquid interfaces are limited to low-pressure applications. Here we report a dynamic liquid/solid/gas material containing both air and liquid pockets, which are formed by partially infiltrating a porous matrix with a functional liquid. Using detailed theoretical and experimental data, we show that the distribution of the air- and liquid-filled pores is responsive to pressure and enables the formation and instantaneous recovery of stable liquid–liquid interfaces that sustain a wide range of pressures and prevent channel contamination. This adaptive design is demonstrated for polymeric materials and extended to metal-based systems that can achieve unmatched mechanical and thermal stability. Our platform with its unique adaptive pressure and antifouling capabilities may offer potential solutions to flow control in microfluidics, medical devices, microscale synthesis, and biological assays.


This work was supported by the US Department of Energy under Award Number DE-SC0005247 and by National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 21673197). X.H. acknowledges the support from the Young Overseas High-level Talents Introduction Plan, the 111 Project (Grant No. B16029), and NFFTBS (Grant No. J1310024). J.Y.L. acknowledges the support of Wyss Technology Development Fellowship from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. The authors thank G.M. Whitesides, J. Weaver, M. Khan, R.T. Blough, T.S. Wong, B.D. Hatton, Q.H. Liu, and F. Wu for discussion and help.

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Last updated on 04/30/2018