Diamond, Dermot and Dunne, Aishling and Bruen, Danielle and Delaney, Colm and McCluskey, Peter and McCaul, Margaret and Florea, Larisa (2017) Bioinspired microfluidics. In: Biodetection & Biosensors 2017, 10-11 Oct 2017, Cambridge, UK.
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Through developments in 3D fabrication technologies in recent years, it is now possible to build and characterize much more sophisticated 3D platforms than was formerly the case. Regions of differing polarity, binding behaviour, flexibility/rigidity, can be incorporated into these fluidic systems. Furthermore, materials that can switch these characteristics can be incorporated, enabling the creation of microfluidic building blocks that exhibit switchable characteristics such as programmed microvehicle movement (chemotaxis), switchable binding and release, switchable soft polymer actuation (e.g. valving), and selective uptake and release of molecular targets. These building blocks can be in turn integrated into microfluidic systems with hitherto unsurpassed functionalities that can contribute to bridging the gap between what is required for many applications, and what we can currently deliver. The emerging transition from existing engineering-inspired 2D to bioinspired 3D fluidic concepts represents a major turning point in the evolution of microfluidics. Implementation of these disruptive concepts may open the way to realising biochemical sensing systems with performance characteristics far beyond those of current devices. A key development will be the integration of biomimetic functions like self-awareness of condition and self-repair capabilities to extend their useful lifetime. In this contribution I will present ideas and demonstrations of practical ways to begin building a biomimetic function toolbox that could form the basis of these futuristic microfluidic systems. Examples will include chemotactic microvehicles that can collaborate to perform sophisticated functions at specific locations, and precision remote control of flow behaviour in channels using light
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