Discount Microfluidics From A $9 Spree At The Dollar Store

Microfluidics — working with tiny volumes of fluids in tiny channels — isn’t something you’d think would be inexpensive. Unless you read [Alexander Bissells’] post on how he created microfluidic devices using stuff from the dollar store. The channels in these devices can be much smaller than a millimeter and the fluid volumes are sometimes measured in femtoliters. At those scales, fluids don’t work like we intuitively think they will.

The parts list included gel tape, baby droppers, and some assorted containers and tools. Total price at the dollar store $9. One of the key finds in the dollar store was some small spray bottles. They weren’t important themselves, but they contain small lengths of silicone tubing and that was useful. Plastic fresnel lenses along with the tubing and gel tape worked to make “chips.” The gel tape also gets cut to make the channels. An eyedropper with some modifications makes a reasonable syringe.

We aren’t sure what you can practically do with any of these, but the T-junction looked pretty interesting. If you want some ideas on how these devices work in biology, including COVID-19 testing, check out this article. And just last week [Krishna Sanka] hosted a Hack Chat on microfluidics in biohacking, you can find the transcript on the project page. If you need a pump, this one uses 3D printer firmware to control it.

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