“Connecting worlds – a view on microfluidics for a wider application”

Ana C. Fernandes*, Krist V. Gernaey, Ulrich Krühne

*Corresponding author for this work

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From its birth, microfluidics has been referenced as a revolutionary technology and the solution to long standing technological and sociological issues, such as detection of dilute compounds and personalized healthcare. Microfluidics has for example been envisioned as: (1) being capable of miniaturizing industrial production plants, thereby increasing their automation and operational safety at low cost; (2) being able to identify rare diseases by running bioanalytics directly on the patient’s skin; (3) allowing health diagnostics in point-of-care sites through cheap lab-on-a-chip devices. However, the current state of microfluidics, although technologically advanced, has so far failed to reach the originally promised widespread use.

In this paper, some of the aspects are identified and discussed that have prevented microfluidics from reaching its full potential, especially in the chemical engineering and biotechnology fields, focusing mainly on the specialization on a single target of most microfluidic devices and offering a perspective on the alternate, multi-use, “plug and play” approach. Increasing the flexibility of microfluidic platforms, by increasing their compatibility with different substrates, reactions and operation conditions, and other microfluidic systems is indeed of surmount importance and current academic and industrial approaches to modular microfluidics are presented. Furthermore, two views on the commercialization of plug-and-play microfluidics systems, leading towards improved acceptance and more widespread use, are introduced. A brief review of the main materials and fabrication strategies used in these fields, is also presented. Finally, a step-wise guide towards the development of microfluidic systems is introduced with special focus on the integration of sensors in microfluidics. The proposed guidelines are then applied for the development of two different example platforms, and to three examples taken from literature.

With this work, we aim to provide an interesting perspective on the field of microfluidics when applied to chemical engineering and biotechnology studies, as well as to contribute with potential solutions to some of its current challenges.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBiotechnology Advances
Number of pages67
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Microfluidics
  • Biotechnology
  • Plug-and-play
  • Sensor integration
  • Platform development guide
  • Modular microfluidics


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