Paper pump for passive and programmable transport

Biomicrofluidics. 2013 Feb 6;7(1):14107. doi: 10.1063/1.4790819. eCollection 2013.


In microfluidic systems, a pump for fluid-driving is often necessary. To keep the size of microfluidic systems small, a pump that is small in size, light-weight and needs no external power source is advantageous. In this work, we present a passive, simple, ultra-low-cost, and easily controlled pumping method based on capillary action of paper that pumps fluid through conventional polymer-based microfluidic channels with steady flow rate. By using inexpensive cutting tools, paper can be shaped and placed at the outlet port of a conventional microfluidic channel, providing a wide range of pumping rates. A theoretical model was developed to describe the pumping mechanism and aid in the design of paper pumps. As we show, paper pumps can provide steady flow rates from 0.3 μl/s to 1.7 μl/s and can be cascaded to achieve programmable flow-rate tuning during the pumping process. We also successfully demonstrate transport of the most common biofluids (urine, serum, and blood). With these capabilities, the paper pump has the potential to become a powerful fluid-driving approach that will benefit the fielding of microfluidic systems for point-of-care applications.