Ceramic and Metal Component Prototyping
~ Functional Prototypes and Production ~

High-Performance Microfluidics

Microstructured fluidic devices are poised to dramatically change how we design and construct many fluid-handling systems.

50 micron wide, 750 micron deep microchannels in 316L stainless steel Their capabilities are beginning to affect the design of analytical instruments, chemical production processes, pharmaceutical development, and chemical research among many other areas.

Creating microstructured components has two main consequences:

  • reducing system size and sample volumes, and
  • greater control over chemical and thermal processes.
This is useful for both miniaturization (making things smaller) and for performance (making things better/faster) even in large-scale, high throughput applications.

Surface area to volume ratios can be thousands of times greater in microstructured systems than in batch systems. This promotes more precise and efficient thermal management, controlled residence times, and many other effects.

Advantages apply on many different levels for various applications:

  • process intensification
  • Microchannel Chip
  • greater selectivity
  • uniform temperature control
  • lower energy costs
  • less byproduct production
  • enables novel process chemistries
  • greater material utilization
  • faster startup times
  • higher levels of integration
  • miniaturization
  • portability
  • on-site, on-demand processing

Analytical instruments can be designed with a "lab-on-a-chip" approach that integrates fluild handling and sensing in small packages. This enables miniaturation and portability, but can also improve performance and sensitivity. Microfluidics can reduce the size of benchtop devices so you can carry the lab into the field, rather than sending samples back to a lab. This enables improved testing processes and makes it easier to operate in remote locations. For example, in-field testing can help zero-in on pollution sources at the time they are sampled, rather than trying to relocate the problems after processing in a lab.

Miniature Chemical Process Device
Microchemical Reactor, a "lab on a chip", containing two input ports, a pressure-circulated mixing area, buffer section, reactor area (on the left), serpentine cooling section, and output buffer and connection, all in a single-piece hermetically sealed package. The alumina ceramic device is inert to most chemicals and is strong and durable. The package size is 32x16x2.4 mm.
For screening catalysts or chemical compounds, microfluidic systems are already greatly increasing the efficiency of discovery and process optimization. Multiple reactions can be performed and monitored in parallel on fluidic devices.

Rather than processing chemicals in bulk, microchannel systems convey fluids through a controlled structure where heat, residence times, and mixing are more precisely controlled. One result is process intensification as the process becomes faster and the equipment becomes smaller. Another is that processes that would be difficult to control in batch due to fast reaction times, unstable intermediates, highly exothermic behavior, or operation in an explosive regime can now be efficiently and safely carried out in microstructured reactors.

Specific applications where microstructured devices are being considered include:

    Microchannel Chip
    • micro heat exchangers
    • fuel cells
    • hydrogen generation
    • cracking of petrochemicals
    • gas-to-liquid conversions of methane
    Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals
    • microreactors
    • processing of peroxides
    • nitration
    • hydrogenation
    • hydrolysis
    • on-demand manufacture of perishable chemicals
    • oxidation
    • microanalytical sensors and systems
    • microfluidic packaging for MEMS devices
    • miniature or multi-fluid nozzles

Microfluidic Device Fabrication

CAM-LEM's manufacturing processes enable the creation of high-performance microfluidic devices made from ceramic or metal. These provide much better chemical resistance and strength than plastic or silicon, better strength than glass, and high temperature resistance. We have created parts with features from 50 microns to 350 millimeters (0.002 to 14 inches), samples tested to pressures over 75 MPa (10,000 psi), and complex, multilevel structures for high-temperature mixing and reactions.

Ceramic microfluidic distillation device Parts can be produced economically in high volumes. We also offer rapid prototyping of ceramic microfluidic devices to help you rapidly develop and test your designs.


DOWNLOAD For more information, see our
Microfluidics Spec Sheet (PDF).

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Examples of CAM-LEM microfluidic devices.

Last modified 2005 September 27