Using techniques similar to those used in silicon chip fabrication, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have constructed chip-sized “microfluidic” processors that could someday be used to perform complex, real-time analysis of liquids. The group has designed a production process that can produce microfluidics chips with tiny pipes and valves in only ten minutes.
A liquid polymer is used that solidifies into microchannels when ultra-violet light is applied through a template. Those channels are then filled with a different polymer that UV light turns to a fluid-bloated “hydrogel” that shrinks or expands when exposed to certain chemical stimuli, creating valves. The group can also create actuators and sensors.
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