30.07.2014
Designing chips is a subtle task, but for many applications one can re-use an existing design. If you have a clean room, somebody there will be able to train you on fabrication, based on our protocols. Moulding is the most common task: it must be done over and over again, as the chips are usually single use. PDMS or poly(dimethylsiloxane), informally known as silicone, is a cross-linkable elastomer. It is transparent down to UV light, allowing easy optical microscope observation and enabling fluorescence techniques of UV-range absorption. It can seal reversibly or irreversibly to itself or glass, allowing the fabrication of multi-layer devices, and strong bonding to glass slides. It is oxygen permeable, allowing air to diffuse out of the channels through the chip when the channels are filled.
Casting PDMS involves mixing a precursor and a curing agent (sold as the Sylgard 184 kit by Dow Corning), degassing, pouring into the mould (or spin-coating onto the wafer for the thin layers), and partial curing at 80°C. If you do not, you can try to experiment with making moulds out of laser machined metal, but it will probably be easier to order them. A thick upper layer is imprinted with the flow channels (those that will contain reagents) and a thin bottom layer is imprinted with the control channels (used to actuate on-chip valves). After curing, holes are punched through the flow layer, to allow plugging in of external tubing (again, see part II). So unless a friendly lab in your neighbourhood is equipped, you'll probably have to order the chips. The two layers are then superposed and aligned by hand, so that the valves from the control layer overlap the correct channels on the flow layer. For most chips, the last step is to bond them them to a glass microscope slide, following a plasma surface treatment if strong bonding is required. In the case of the MITOMI chips, they are instead aligned onto a spotted array from a DNA library.



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