Frequency-specific, valveless flow control in insect-mimetic microfluidic devices

Bioinspir Biomim. 2021 Mar 19;16(3). doi: 10.1088/1748-3190/abe4bc.


Inexpensive, portable lab-on-a-chip devices would revolutionize fields like environmental monitoring and global health, but current microfluidic chips are tethered to extensive off-chip hardware. Insects, however, are self-contained and expertly manipulate fluids at the microscale using largely unexplored methods. We fabricated a series of microfluidic devices that mimic key features of insect respiratory kinematics observed by synchrotron-radiation imaging, including the collapse of portions of multiple respiratory tracts in response to a single fluctuating pressure signal. In one single-channel device, the flow rate and direction could be controlled by the actuation frequency alone, without the use of internal valves. Additionally, we fabricated multichannel chips whose individual channels responded selectively (on with a variable, frequency-dependent flow rate, or off) to a single, global actuation frequency. Our results demonstrate that insect-mimetic designs have the potential to drastically reduce the actuation overhead for microfluidic chips, and that insect respiratory systems may share features with impedance-mismatch pumps.

Keywords: biomimetics; frequency tuning; insect respiration; microfluidics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomimetics
  • Insecta
  • Lab-On-A-Chip Devices*
  • Microfluidics*
  • Physical Phenomena