Surface Channel Technology is known as the fabrication platform to make free-hanging microchannels for various microfluidic sensors and actuators. In this technology, thin film metal electrodes, such as platinum or gold, are often used for electrical sensing and actuation purposes. As a result that they are located at the top surface of the microfluidic channels, only topside sensing and actuation is possible. Moreover, in microreactor applications, high temperature degradation of thin film metal layers limits their performance as robust microheaters. In this paper, we report on an innovative idea to make microfluidic devices with integrated silicon sidewall electrodes, and we demonstrate their use as microheaters. This is achieved by modifying the original Surface Channel Technology with optimized mask designs. The modified technology allows to embed heavily-doped bulk silicon electrodes in between the sidewalls of two adjacent free-hanging microfluidic channels. The bulk silicon electrodes have the same electrical properties as the extrinsic silicon substrate. Their cross-sectional geometry and overall dimensions can be designed by optimizing the mask design, hence the resulting resistance of each silicon electrode can be customized. Furthermore, each silicon electrode can be electrically insulated from the silicon substrate. They can be designed with large cross-sectional areas and allow for high power dissipation when used as microheater. A demonstrator device is presented which reached 119 . 4 ∘ C at a power of 206 . 9 m W , limited by thermal conduction through the surrounding air. Other potential applications are sensors using the silicon sidewall electrodes as resistive or capacitive readout.
Keywords: Surface Channel Technology (SCT); free-hanging microfluidic channels; heavily-doped bulk silicon microheaters; silicon sidewall electrode.