Microfabricated All-Around-Electrode AC Electro-osmotic Micropump

This thesis presents the fabrication and characterisation of AC electro-osmotic micropumps with a simple design and velocity generation enhanced by about four times with respect to devices with simpler designs. Electro-osmosis is a convenient and effective method to pump liquids without the need for moving components. The implementation of valveless micropumps is important for the realisation of safe and robust biomedical devices, which require long-term reliability. AC electro-osmosis has the advantage, over other kinds of pumping strategies, of being implementable with relatively simple geometries and fabrication processes. Moreover, it uses low voltages and avoids undesired phenomena such as electrolysis, thus being suitable for the implementation in implantable devices that should operate in a closed environment. Whereas AC electro-osmotic pumps presented in the literature exploit planar electrode designs and fail to generate good values of velocity and pressure, the prototypes presented in this work have electrodes patterned all around the pumping channel and can generate much larger values. Moreover, with respect to other improved prototypes based on 3D electrode geometries, our devices are simpler to fabricate and give comparable enhancements of the performances. In this work, we present the development of the all-around-electrode devices and give a theoretical explanation for the measured improvements in velocity generation. The fabrication process is carried out in the cleanroom by depositing Ti/Pt electrodes on pre-structured Pyrex substrates and requires only three lithographic steps. The performances of the fabricated devices are characterised as a function of the applied voltage and frequency, and the dynamic behaviour of the prototypes is studied using the Fourier transform. In order to evaluate the suitability of the pumps for biomedical fluids, the dependence of velocity generation on the concentration of the pumped solution is also addressed. Finally, we show that the fabrication process can be adapted to an industrial batch manufacture requiring lower costs by substituting the Pyrex substrates with thin plastic foils. All-around-electrode micropumps can be successfully fabricated by patterning metal electrodes onto 12-µm-thick plastic foils and the costs might be further reduced by substituting the metal structures with inkjet-printed conductive-polymer electrodes.

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