High-Pressure Microfluidic Chips

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Most microfluidic applications involve only relative moderate pressures. However, some applications do require working with high-pressures. Occasionally we are asked “what is the maximum pressure that can be applied to our fused silica glass microfluidic chips?”

The answer may be surprising to some of our readers -The maximum pressure that a microfluidic system can sustain is often not imposed by the glass microfluidic chip itself, but rather it is controlled by other components found in a typical microfluidic system (tubing, connector, etc.). Luer connectors made out of polymer (Nylon or polycarbonate), which are widely used for microfluidic and biomedical applications, are designed to operate at low-pressures. They will deform and leak even at relatively low pressures. If you intend to work with pressure exceeding 60 psi (approximately 4 atm or 0.4 MPa), you should specify that you would prefer chips equipped with Nanoport connectors (offered on a standard basis) or metallic luers (offered on a custom basis). In addition, you need to make sure that the rest of your system is capable of handling your working pressure. Glass microfluidic chips themselves are rather strong: Several of our customers have reported using our chips up to, and in some cases, above 500 psi (~ 35 atm). Note that if you use a custom-design microfluidic chip that has a large area subjected to the working pressure, or one of our standard flow cells with reservoir, you should be very cautious when working at high pressures.

Follow Safety Protocol when opertaing microfluidic chips at a high pressureFollow Safety Protocol when opertaing microfluidic chips at a high pressureSAFETY CONSIDERATIONS:

Note that it is standard practice to initially test high-pressure devices using an incompressible fluid, such as water. Do NOT test your microfluidic chips using compressed air or nitrogen. This could be very dangerous. Unlike water, gases are very compressible, making them hydraulically equivalent to a large mechanical spring. If something were to break or come free during a high-pressure air test, the released air could propel an object over a great distance, and with much force. As always, wear safety glasses when operating a microfluidic chips at a high pressure.