Microfluidic flow-cell with passive flow control for microscopy applicationsMore about Open Access at the Crick
We present a fast, inexpensive and robust technique for constructing thin, optically transparent flow-cells with pump-free flow control. Using layers of glass, patterned adhesive tape and polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) connections, we demonstrate the fabrication of planar devices with chamber height as low as 25 μm and with millimetre-scale (x,y) dimensions for wide-field microscope observation. The method relies on simple benchtop equipment and does not require microfabrication facilities, glass drilling or other workshop infrastructure. We also describe a gravity perfusion system that exploits the strong capillary action in the flow chamber as a passive limit-valve. Our approach allows simple sequential sample exchange with controlled flow rates, sub-5 μL sample chamber size and zero dead volume. We demonstrate the system in a single-molecule force spectroscopy experiment using magnetic tweezers.