Development of Elastomeric Optofluidic Devices for Lasing and Sensing

The term of optofluidics defines an emergent research field that combines microfluidics and optics. In many lab-on-a-chip applications, these two technologies are used in combining the microfluidics for sample delivery and optics for sensing and controlling. Optofluidic represents the implementation of optics in microfluidic platform that produces an unprecedented level of integration. Moreover, optofluidic devices are easily and highly reconfigurable, which can be a significant advantage to the traditional solid optical components. As an elastomer, PDMS (polydimethylsiloxane) is one of the most popular materials in microfluidics. It exhibits excellent elasticity, bio-compatibility and optical transparence. Most microfluidic chips are made of PDMS using soft lithography. And multi-layer soft lithography has enabled large-scale integration of monolithic microfluidic valves and pumps on a single chip. Thus to develop the optofluidic elements within PDMS microfluidic chip is one of the most promising and desirable ways towards further integration of optofluidic and microfluidic functions together for more complex lab-on-a-chip applications. During my doctoral research, we worked on a batch of optofluidic devices that are based on PDMS material and soft lithography. They include the optofluidic dye lasers, optofluidic interferometer, optofluidic switch, and optofluidic differential spectroscopy. Such optofluidic elements provide a broad spectrum of toolbox with different optical functions that can be easily into many other PDMS microfluidic chips. They are compatible to the conventional PDMS microfluidic chip in terms of fabrication, operation and control. And they could provide important optical functions in lab-on-a-chip systems. For examples, the optofluidic dye laser can be integrated as a widely tunable coherent source for chip-scale fluorescence spectroscopy or cell flow cytometry. The optofluidic membrane interferometer can be easily integrated into conventional PDMS microfluidic chip for multi-site pressure and flow monitoring with high precision. Optofluidic switch can compose a reconfigurable optical circuit on single microfluidic chip. Optofluidic differential spectroscopy provides a simple and highly sensitive method for in-line measuring of solution concentration. Among these devices, we have also developed and summarized a series of novel optofluidic turning methods that are controlled by pneumatic actuation. These simple turning methods also take the advantages of high precision and reliability. In addition to these elastomeric optofluidic devices, we are also working on several other optofluidic projects. In the last chapter of this thesis, we will give a partial preview of these works and also our perspective on the nano-optofluidics which represents a new trend of optofluidics.

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