Polystyrene (PS), a standard material for cell culture consumable labware, was molded into microstructures with high fidelity of replication by an elastomeric polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) mold. The process was a simple, benchtop method based on soft lithography using readily available materials. The key to successful replica molding by this simple procedure relies on the use of a solvent, for example, gamma-butyrolactone, which dissolves PS without swelling the PDMS mold. PS solution was added to the PDMS mold, and evaporation of the solvent was accomplished by baking the mold on a hotplate. Microstructures with feature sizes as small as 3 μm and aspect ratios as large as 7 were readily molded. Prototypes of microfluidic chips made from PS were prepared by thermal bonding of a microchannel molded in PS with a flat PS substrate. The PS microfluidic chip displayed much lower adsorption and absorption of hydrophobic molecules (e.g. rhodamine B) compared to a comparable chip created from PDMS. The molded PS surface exhibited stable surface properties after plasma oxidation as assessed by contact angle measurement. The molded, oxidized PS surface remained an excellent surface for cell culture based on cell adhesion and proliferation. To demonstrate the application of this process for cell biology research, PS was micromolded into two different microarray formats, microwells and microposts, for segregation and tracking of non-adherent and adherent cells, respectively. The micromolded PS possessed properties that were ideal for biological and bioanalytical needs, thus making it an alternative material to PDMS and suitable for building lab-on-a-chip devices by soft lithography methods.
This journal is © The Royal Society of Chemistry 2011