Bubble-free electrokinetic pumping
Bubble-free electroosmotic flow (fr-EOF) of aqueous electrolytes in microfluidic channels with integrated electrodes is demonstrated. Undesirable electrolytic bubble formation is avoided by applying a periodic, zero net charge current to generate a nonzero average potential between the electrodes. Electrokinetic pressure generated in this active segment of the microchannel drives flow upstream and downstream where electric field is absent. Flow rates commensurate with theoretical predictions for EOF driven by a dc voltage equivalent to the average net potential have been measured. By significantly reducing driving potentials and liquid exposure time to strong electric fields, fr-EOF opens the way for fully integrated, versatile micro total analysis systems (pTAS).