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Punchcard Programmable Microfluidics


Background: This light-weight hand-held mechanical microfluidic device is designed to perform complex protocols in low resource settings without a power source or external control element. Developed by researchers in Prof. Manu Prakash’s laboratory the system uses an interchangeable punch card tape to both pump the fluid and direct its flow. This general purpose technology can be used in single phase and multi-phase microfluidics for diagnostic medical device or environmental monitoring applications. Technology Description: Complexity of current microfluidic systems (control systems number of parts fragility) renders them ineffective in harsh conditions and field settings necessary for global health applications. To run a complex protocol on a microfluidic devices it is necessary to program the fluid flow. For usage of a single chip for many different purposes it is required they be programed arbitrarily. Here we present a microfluidic device which reads out traditional punch card tapes (made out of punched paper) to both run (power/pump) and completely program the microfluidic device in an arbitrary fashion. This simple solution allows for arbitrary complexity programs to be loaded into a microfluidic chip without any requirement of pumps valves or even electricity. Different protocols can be loaded by using different punch card strips. Applications: 1) Point-of-care diagnostics - hand-held device can be operated without power supply 2) Programmable medical devices - accurate drug delivery 3) On-site environmental monitoring - can run complex assays in the field with limited resources in a field setting


1) Non-electric: completely mechanical design requires no power to operate enables point-of-use field operation in harsh conditions light-weight (because no battery is required) Low cost - simple easy-to-use system 2) Programmable: no external control system unique microfluidic programs can be loaded onto interchangeable cards protocols can be shared between users by sharing programmed cards

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