Example of a microfluidic chip used for the detection of traces of past or present life on Mars and intended to fly as one of the instruments onboard the Exomars mission in the Aurora programme. The chip is an example of a complex system with high added value and comprises several reaction chambers (some of them filled by fiber pads able to bind to the searched biomarkers), conductivity sensors for flow control and the stator of a rotary valve which defines the analysis protocol by stepping through a number of index positions.
Microfluidics is the very wide area in which liquids or gases are processed or analyzed on a chip. Microfluidics started with miniaturization of principles already known from the macroscopic world, such as check valves and peristaltic pumps. The real power of microfluidics was revealed when new principles were utilized, which work best on the microscale: principles like surface tension, mixing by diffusion, laminar flow and electroosmotic pumping. Microfluidic systems are typically used in a continuous flow mode, which offers decisive advantages to the classic batch mode.
Silicon and hybrid glass-silicon fluidics
Microfluidic chips are often made of glass because it is an accepted material among end users in laboratories. At LioniX international we also produce microfluidic silicon chips, and hybrid silicon-glass chips. The big advantage of such chips is that process possibilities in silicon are much wider. In silicon, for example, the achievable feature size and aspect ratio prevail over those in glass, and more functionality can be added because a larger variety of fabrication processes is available. The variety of devices is huge and comprises reactors, electrophoresis chips, mixers, phase separators, usually for applications in life sciences or the chemical process industry.