An electrically-controlled programmable microfluidic concentration waveform generator

Joshua Garrison, Zidong Li, Barath Palanisamy, Ling Wang, Erkin Seker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Biological systems have complicated environmental conditions that vary both spatially and temporally. It becomes necessary to impose time-varying soluble factor concentrations to study such systems, including cellular responses to pharmaceuticals, inflammation with waxing and waning cytokine concentrations, as well as circadian rhythms and their metabolic manifestations. There is therefore a need for platforms that can achieve time-varying concentrations with arbitrary waveforms. Results: To address this need, we developed a microfluidic system that can deliver concentration waveforms in a fast and accurate manner by adopting concepts and tools from electrical engineering and fluid mechanics. Specifically, we employed pulse width modulation (PWM), a commonly used method for generating analog signals from digital sources. We implement this technique using three microfluidic components via laser ablation prototyping: low-pass filter (lower frequency signals permitted, high frequency signals blocked), resistor, and mixer. Each microfluidic component was individually studied and iteratively tuned to generate desired concentration waveforms with high accuracy. Using fluorescein as a small-molecule soluble factor surrogate, we demonstrated a series of concentration waveforms, including square, sawtooth, sinusoidal, and triangle waves with frequencies ranging from 100 mHz to 400 mHz. Conclusion: We reported the fabrication and characterization of microfluidic platform that can generate time-varying concentrations of fluorescein with arbitrary waveforms. We envision that this platform will enable a wide range of biological studies, where time-varying soluble factor concentrations play a critical role. In addition, the technology is expected to assist in the development of biomedical devices that allow precise dosing of pharmaceuticals for enhanced therapeutic efficacy and reduced toxicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number31
JournalJournal of Biological Engineering
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 14 2018


  • Concentration waveform
  • Microfluidics
  • Pulse width modulation
  • Time-varying soluble factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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