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Advanced and versatile PRInting platform for the next generation of active Microfluidic dEvices

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - PRIME (Advanced and versatile PRInting platform for the next generation of active Microfluidic dEvices)

Reporting period: 2020-05-01 to 2022-04-30

Microfluidic devices manipulate small amounts of fluid enabling cost-effective and high throughput analytical assays. Progress in Microfluidics has impact in areas such as biomedicine, biological studies or diagnostics. Despite this potential, the microfluidics market growth is limited by the complexity and elevated prices of the large-scale off-chip equipment needed and its operational cost. PRIME aims to implement and integrate smart materials-based valves and pumps in a microfluidic chip. Besides printing will be used to produce new ultra-sensitive and selective sensors embedded in the chip and readable with light. The final device will be remotely addressed and read using simple photonic elements.

PRIME aims to go beyond the state-of-the-art generating a platform to create a new generation of active microfluidic chips effectively changing the established paradigm. PRIME will develop a radically new platform that: i) integrates all the required responsive materials and elements in the chip, effectively providing it with all the fluidic and sensing functions, ii) uses compatible materials and manufacturing technologies making future industrial production viable and cost-effective, iii) allows to implement with extensive freedom of design a plethora of new smart-integrated and easy-to-operate microfluidic chips.
The PRIME project work plan involves 3 technical Work Packages (WPs) designed to facilitate the accomplishment of the project objective. First, WP1 focuses in the development of the materials needed to generate the fluidic and sensing components of the microfluidic devices; in WP2, the developed materials and manufacturing techniques, will constitute the basis to create and integrate the fluidic and sensing functions into a microfluidic chip. With all the toolbox in place, the PRIME technology will be validated, in WP3, not started yet. Besides the technical WPs (1 to 3), the project has a WP4 devoted to dissemination, exploitation and communication activities to ensure project impact and a WP5 for management and coordination.

During the second reporting period, PRIME has developed new printable photoresponsive materials to implement mechanical actuators to be integrated in microfluidic chips and generate fluidic elements such as valves or pumps. Sensing materials and protocols for biofunctionalization have progressed too. Advances in the materials developments and in the design of the different elements, have enabled to better understand their possibilities and limitations and demonstrate, at this stage both fluidic and sensing basic elements integrated in microfluidic chips. The further development of the fluidic and sensing functions in the coming third reporting period will enable the effective integration of functional elements and progress towards the demonstration of the feasibility of the technology in real application cases.

In the 2nd reporting period we met the objective of Disseminate and communicate results via different means such as the continuous updating of our project website and social media channels or the creation of a series of 9 videos and 8 mini-posters. Project results have also been presented in several publications, scientific conferences, workshops and events for the general public during the period. Protection of the intellectual property of the identified exploitable results has been undertaken and paths of exploitation are being explored for each of them in a continuous fashion along the project duration. WP5 on management, has facilitated a smooth running of project activities ensuring timely achievement of objectives and deliverables.
The standard in microfluidics is a passive microfluidic chip using bulky external equipment to perform liquid control and manipulation functions. For detection, also external complex and expensive equipment, making the cost of microfluidics platforms expensive and operation complex.

The vision of the PRIME technology overcomes all these limitations through the use of smart and nano- materials, advanced manufacturing as well as concepts that will enable integration of all the fluidic and sensing functions into a single device, leading to a radically new generation of microfluidic systems.

This will also narrow the gap between microfluidic technology and non-specialized end-users favouring spreading and penetration of microfluidics to diverse application fields ranging from biological basic research and drug testing studies in the biomedical field to environmental, food and water assays.