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Passive Mixing Capabilities of Micro- and Nanofibres When Used in Microfluidic Systems

Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA
Department of Radiology, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Newark, NJ 07103, USA
Institute for Analytical Chemistry, Chemo- and Biosensors, University of Regensburg, Regensburg 93040, Germany
Department of Fibre Science and Apparel Design, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Amine Miled and Jesse Greener
Sensors 2016, 16(8), 1238;
Received: 25 May 2016 / Revised: 26 July 2016 / Accepted: 30 July 2016 / Published: 5 August 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Microfluidics-Based Microsystem Integration Research)
PDF [2760 KB, uploaded 5 August 2016]


Nanofibres are increasingly being used in the field of bioanalytics due to their large surface-area-to-volume ratios and easy-to-functionalize surfaces. To date, nanofibres have been studied as effective filters, concentrators, and immobilization matrices within microfluidic devices. In addition, they are frequently used as optical and electrochemical transduction materials. In this work, we demonstrate that electrospun nanofibre mats cause appreciable passive mixing and therefore provide dual functionality when incorporated within microfluidic systems. Specifically, electrospun nanofibre mats were integrated into Y-shaped poly(methyl methacrylate) microchannels and the degree of mixing was quantified using fluorescence microscopy and ImageJ analysis. The degree of mixing afforded in relationship to fibre diameter, mat height, and mat length was studied. We observed that the most mixing was caused by small diameter PVA nanofibres (450–550 nm in diameter), producing up to 71% mixing at the microchannel outlet, compared to up to 51% with polystyrene microfibres (0.8–2.7 μm in diameter) and 29% mixing in control channels containing no fibres. The mixing afforded by the PVA nanofibres is caused by significant inhomogeneity in pore size and distribution leading to percolation. As expected, within all the studies, fluid mixing increased with fibre mat height, which corresponds to the vertical space of the microchannel occupied by the fibre mats. Doubling the height of the fibre mat led to an average increase in mixing of 14% for the PVA nanofibres and 8% for the PS microfibres. Overall, mixing was independent of the length of the fibre mat used (3–10 mm), suggesting that most mixing occurs as fluid enters and exits the fibre mat. The mixing effects observed within the fibre mats were comparable to or better than many passive mixers reported in literature. Since the nanofibre mats can be further functionalized to couple analyte concentration, immobilization, and detection with enhanced fluid mixing, they are a promising nanomaterial providing dual-functionality within lab-on-a-chip devices. View Full-Text
Keywords: nanofibres; fluid mixing; microfluidics; biosensors nanofibres; fluid mixing; microfluidics; biosensors

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Matlock-Colangelo, L.; Colangelo, N.W.; Fenzl, C.; Frey, M.W.; Baeumner, A.J. Passive Mixing Capabilities of Micro- and Nanofibres When Used in Microfluidic Systems. Sensors 2016, 16, 1238.

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