Navigating the lab-on-chip manufacturability roadblock: scalable, low-cost fluorescence detection for lab-on-chip instrumentation with rapid-prototyped microfluidics
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Miniaturisation and automation of laboratory testing protocols onto microfluidic chips (lab-on-chip technology) could revolutionise diagnostic testing, though the key challenge of integrating high levels of functionality at a low-cost has so far prevented widespread adoption both in industry and academia. Specifically, implementation of a cost-accessible fluorescence detection has eluded the field and ensured nearly all commercial and academic instruments are too costly for routine applications. The field also faces a manufacturability problem, as it is dominated by expensive and/or low-throughput fabrication approaches. This thesis aims to address core concerns on both the instrument and fluidic chip fronts through the development of a low-cost fluorescence detection module capable of executing standard molecular diagnostics. The detection was inherently designed to interface with a series of rapid-prototyped polymer fluidics that I designed and fabricated with direct-write methods (micromilling and laser ablation) and minimal processing, allowing for quick iterations of fluidic designs while retaining compatibility with high throughput manufacturing procedures such as injection moulding. The result is a sub-$1000 prototype capable of executing gold-standard diagnostic testing at sub-$10 per chip, though the specific protocol development is still on-going. Finally, these components have been designed in a scalable manner such that it is feasible for future manufacturing to be done in a standard CMOS compatible process, a process that also faces manufacturability issues and high development costs that could be avoided by utilising these designs as prototyping testbeds. Thus, this work provides a roadmap from interim low-cost instrumentation and rapid-prototyping methods, through standard high volume polymer processing techniques, to a true single-chip device where the entire instrument may one day be fabricated at high volume in a USB-key sized package.
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Gordon H. Hall (2018). Navigating the lab-on-chip manufacturability roadblock: scalable, low-cost fluorescence detection for lab-on-chip instrumentation with rapid-prototyped microfluidics. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/13212