Bi-directional AC electrothermal micropump for on-chip biological applications
The ability to control and pump high ionic strength fluids inside microchannels forms a major advantage for clinical diagnostics and drug screening processes, where high conductive biological and physiological buffers are used. Despite the known potential of AC electro-thermal (ACET) effect in different biomedical applications, comparatively little is known about controlling the velocity and direction of fluid inside the chip. Here, we proposed to discretize the conventional electrodes to form various asymmetric electrode structures in order to control the fluid direction by simple switching the appropriate electric potential applied to the discretized electrodes. The ACET pumping effect was numerically studied by solving electrical, thermal and hydrodynamic multi-physic coupled equations to optimize the geometrical dimensions of the discretized system. PBS solutions with different ionic strength were seeded with 1 μm sized fluorescent particles and electrothermally driven fluid motion was observed inside the channel for different electrode structures. Experimental analyses confirm that the proposed micropump is efficient for a conductivity range between 0.1 and 1 S/m and the efficiency improves by increasing the voltage amplitude. Behavior of the proposed electrode–electrolyte system is discussed by lumped circuit model. Frequency response of system illustrated that the optimal frequency range increases by increasing the conductivity of medium. For 0.18 S/m PBS solution, the constant pumping effect was observed at frequency range between 100 kHz and 1 MHz, while frequency range of 100 kHz to 5 MHZ was observed for 0.42 S/m. The characteristics of experimental results were in good agreement with the theoretical model.