A whole lab on one cm². That’s what microfluidics ultimately enables. Here’s an overview of imec’s activities in this field.
Microfluidics allows the precise control and manipulation of fluids on an exceedingly small scale. Combined with sensing and actuating capabilities, this results in compact devices that are also known as labs on chips, enabling researchers and physicians to perform a variety of lab functions on tiny amounts of fluid (such as droplets). Through applications ranging from DNA analyses and advanced diagnostics to precision therapies, these technologies are revolutionizing the healthcare industry.
Over the years, imec built up extensive expertise in the construction of silicon and polymer microfluidic components, and in their monolithic integration with silicon electronics, micro-optics, and photonics.
Our R&D toolbox also includes the surface chemistry that is indispensable for microfluidic applications. We are able to implement vapor phase surface functionalization through:
Which material should you choose for your microfluidic structures? Polymer is a good, cost-efficient option for less-demanding devices. But nothing beats silicon if your device needs extremely small features, integrates a variety of sensors or actuators within microfluidics, or requires massive integrated circuits. on a single chip.
Silicon fluidics are:
Imec uses photolithography and nanoimprint lithography to make silicon fluidic structures such as microchannels, -pillars and -reactors, mixers, droplet generators, capillary pumps and valves, mergers and splitters. We achieve diameters as small as 0.5 µm – 10 nm for devices such as nanopores.
Our silicon fluidics technology is key to groundbreaking applications such as:
Active fluidics benefit from the integration of energized actuators with silicon fluidics. The active actuators are often electrical, acoustic or optical components fabricated in the microfluidics structures using the same set of tools in a semiconductor foundry.
Some examples of active fluidics devices are:
The convenient integration of silicon fluidics with other components on a CMOS platform allows the creation of automated systems for complex fluid handling. One compact chip is then able to perform all the necessary functions without resorting to bulky I/O peripherals.
Integrated fluidic systems can take the form of:
With the move towards integrated fluidics comes a need for more advanced packaging solutions that combine silicon chips with microfluidics.
Imec is working together with industrial partners on the microfluidics chip packaging workflows using commercial components and solutions such as adhesives, partial dicing, and pick-and-place. This is ideal for simple fluidic input/output requirements due to the low cost and high industrial readiness.
For rather complex packaging needs, such as massively parallel electrical, optical and fluidics interfacing, we’re also adapting fan-out wafer-level packaging (FOWLP) capabilities for their application to microfluidics. This would provide:
Want to leverage our expertise and infrastructure to develop your microfluidic or integrated fluidic device? We support you from concept to product, including: