PolyJet printed high aspect ratio three-dimensional bifurcating microfluidic flow distributor and its application in solid-phase extraction
Gupta, V and Paull, B, PolyJet printed high aspect ratio three-dimensional bifurcating microfluidic flow distributor and its application in solid-phase extraction, Analytica Chimica Acta: International Journal Devoted to All Branches of Analytical Chemistry, 1168 Article 338624. ISSN 0003-2670 (2021) [Refereed Article]
Microfluidic distributors that can uniformly distribute fluid from a single channel to multiple channels and into, or across, 3D spaces and vice versa has always represented a challenge. Recently, significant interest has been observed in 3D printing three-dimensional flow distributors. However, they either lack their use at low flow rates or in high aspect ratio environments, which are usually encountered in various applications, such as generating organs-on-a-chip, chromatographic columns, solid-phase extractors, etc. Hence, herein, a three-dimensional bifurcating microfluidic distributor that can be used in both low flow rate and high aspect ratio environments has been designed and developed using PolyJet printing. A 1:4 aspect ratio distributor has been developed with 64 exit channels (array of 16 X 4), however, it can be easily customised to modulate both the aspect ratio and the number of exit channels (in the order of 2). Computational fluid dynamic (CFD) simulation of 0.2 and 0.1 mL min-1 flow through the distributor recorded a maldistribution factor of only 2.29% and 1.72%, respectively. The distributor has resulted in low-dispersion divergence and convergence of flow to and from 64 parallel channels while operating at flow rates ranging from 0.25 mL min−1 to 2 mL min−1. It has been further used to develop a high-performance online solid-phase extractor. The extractor was designed with the three-dimensional bifurcating distributor based inlet and outlet and a packed bed of 15 x 20 x 8 mm (length x breadth x height), which resulted in extraction efficiency of 88.8% ± 0.3. In comparison, the extraction efficiency of 81.1% ± 1.1 and 70.4% ± 0.8 was obtained with its two-dimensional distributor and single-channel inlet and outlet based counterparts, respectively.