Serpentine and leading-edge capillary pumps for microfluidic capillary systems

Roozbeh Safavieh, Ali Tamayol, David Juncker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Scopus citations


Microfluidic capillary systems operate using capillary forces only and require capillary pumps (CPs) to transport, regulate, and meter the flow of small quantity of liquids. Common CP architectures include arrays of posts or tree-like branched conduits that offer many parallel flow paths. However, both designs are susceptible to bubble entrapment and consequently variation in the metered volume. Here, we present two novel CP architectures that deterministically guide the filling front along rows while preventing the entrapment of bubbles using variable gap sizes between posts. The first CP (serpentine pump) guides the filling front following a serpentine path, and the second one (leading-edge pump) directs the liquid along one edge of the CP from where liquid fills the pump row-by-row. We varied the angle of the rows with respect to the pump perimeter and observed filling with minimal variation in pumping pressure and volumetric flow rate, confirming the robustness of this design. In the case of serpentine CP, the flow resistance for filling the first row is high and then decreases as subsequent rows are filled and many parallel flow paths are formed. In the leading-edge pump, parallel flow paths are formed almost immediately, and hence, no spike in flow resistance is observed; however, there is a higher tendency of the liquid for skipping a row, requiring more stringent fabrication tolerances. The flow rate within a single CP was adjusted by tuning the gap size between the microposts within the CP so as to create a gradient in pressure and flow rate. In summary, CP with deterministic guidance of the filling front enables precise and robust control of flow rate and volume.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)357-366
Number of pages10
JournalMicrofluidics and Nanofluidics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2015


  • Capillary flow
  • Microfluidics
  • Passive pumping
  • Point-of-care
  • Pore network modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Materials Chemistry

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