WARF: P02013US

Method of Pumping Fluid through a Microfluidic Device


David Beebe, Glenn Walker

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) is seeking commercial partners interested in developing a novel pumping method in which the surface energy present in a small drop of liquid is used to pump liquid through a microchannel.
OVERVIEWSeveral methods have been developed for pumping fluid through the channels of microfluidic devices. The most popular of these involves electrokinetic flow, which is accomplished by conducting electricity through microfluidic channels.
THE INVENTIONUW-Madison researchers have developed a novel pumping method in which the surface energy present in a small drop of liquid is used to pump liquid through a microchannel. Like electrokinetic flow, the method of this invention is easy to control and to incorporate into microfluidic designs. But it also provides significant advantages over electrokinetic flow in that it does not denature biological samples or need electricity. In fact, the pumping mechanism is semi-autonomous, requiring only minimal additional hardware that can be incorporated entirely at the microscale. The technique can be used for several applications, including simple pumping, pumping of liquids to higher potential energies, and creating plugs within microchannels.
  • Pumping fluid through microfluidic channels
  • Can be tailored to accommodate several different pumping applications
  • Pumping rate can be adjusted very precisely with modern laboratory equipment
  • Simple and inexpensive, requiring only a device capable of producing small drops of liquid, such as a pipette
  • Semi-autonomous─does not require expensive or complicated external equipment
  • Requires only minimal additional hardware
  • Compatible with preexisting high throughput robotic systems
For More Information About the Inventors
  • Walker G. and Beebe D. 2002. A Passive Pumping Method for Microfluidic Devices. Lab Chip 2, 131-134.
Contact Information
For current licensing status, please contact Jeanine Burmania at or 608-960-9846.
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