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Simple and reusable picoinjector for liquid delivery via nanofluidics approach

Shunbo Li1, Wenbin Cao2, Yu Sanna Hui2 and Weijia Wen12*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Physics and Joint KAUST-HKUST Micro/Nano-Fluidics Laboratory, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Clear Water Bay, Kowloon, Hong Kong

2 Nano Science and Technology Program and Department of Physics, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Clear Water Bay, Kowloon, Hong Kong

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Nanoscale Research Letters 2014, 9:147  doi:10.1186/1556-276X-9-147

Published: 25 March 2014


Precise control of sample volume is one of the most important functions in lab-on-a-chip (LOC) systems, especially for chemical and biological reactions. The common approach used for liquid delivery involves the employment of capillaries and microstructures for generating a droplet which has a volume in the nanoliter or picoliter range. Here, we report a novel approach for constructing a picoinjector which is based on well-controlled electroosmotic (EO) flow to electrokinetically drive sample solutions. This picoinjector comprises an array of interconnected nanochannels for liquid delivery. Such technique for liquid delivery has the advantages of well-controlled sample volume and reusable nanofluidic chip, and it was reported for the first time. In the study of the pumping process for this picoinjector, the EO flow rate was determined by the intensity of the fluorescent probe. The influence of ion concentration in electrolyte solutions over the EO flow rate was also investigated and discussed. The application of this EO-driven picoinjector for chemical reactions was demonstrated by the reaction between Fluo-4 and calcium chloride with the reaction cycle controlled by the applied square waves of different duty cycles. The precision of our device can reach down to picoliter per second, which is much smaller than that of most existing technologies. This new approach, thus, opens further possibilities of adopting nanofluidics for well-controlled chemical reactions with particular applications in nanoparticle synthesis, bimolecular synthesis, drug delivery, and diagnostic testing.


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Picoinjector; Nanofluidics; Electroosmosis; Reusable device