4UM10 - Microfluidics-put-to-work

MSc specialization course of Mechanical Engineering

Micro-fluidics is the science and technology of manipulating and analyzing fluid flow in sub-millimeter dimensions. It is the key enabling technology for many emerging applications and disciplines, especially in the fields of medicine, environmental sensing, biology, and chemistry. Also in engineering and the physical sciences microfluidic systems are employed in applications such as control systems, heat management, and energy generation. Microfluidics approaches can be used to characterize and even manufacture in a controlled way functional particles based on soft materials. Concrete examples of applications are biosensor devices for molecular diagnostics, polymerase chain reaction chips, in-line water quality sensing, high-throughput screening, controlled drug delivery systems, drug discovery methods, forensic analysis instruments, and so on.

In this course, you will learn about physical principles that play an important role in micro-fluidics, how these principles can be applied in practical applications, and which device manufacturing principles can be used to realize these applications. The emphasis will be on concepts and their practical applications, rather than on scientific in-depth theoretical understanding. All of the principles and concepts will be introduced in a bottom-up approach, focusing on examples of actual application areas already in use today. For each of these applications the relevant design concepts and physical mechanisms are categorized in application domains, so that the relation with practice is immediately evident. Special attention will be given to probing properties of soft materials using microfluidics.

A practical workshop, in the Microfab lab, forms an essential component of the course as well as the examination, aimed at gaining hands-on experience with basic micro-fluidics device manufacturing and testing.

Contents of the course

  • Microfabrication methods for microfluidics
  • Theoretical microfluidics
  • Design principles for microfluidics
  • Compartmentalized microfluidics: droplet microfluidics, digital microfluidics
  • Biomedical applications: lab on a chip, diagnostics, cell and tissue analysis, organ on a chip
  • Applications in materials science and chemistry: synthesis of particles, capsules, control and study of chemical reactions in small volumes.
  • Probing properties of soft materials using microfluidics
  • Practical lab sessions: making and testing a microfluidic device
  • "Journal Club" presentations of recent microfluidics research articles. 

Learning objectives of the course

  • Students are familiar with the basic fabrication methods for creating microfluidic devices.
  • Students can choose the most suitable fabrication method for a given application.
  • Students have an overview of different technological and scientific applications of microfluidics technology.
  • Students can explain the underlying design principles and scientific background for these different technological and scientific applications.
  • Students can apply the theory of microfluidics to guide the design of microfluidic devices and to interpret experimental results.
  • Students are able to understand and summarize scientific papers at the forefront of the microfluidics field.
  • Students have acquired the practical skills necessary for the fabrication and testing of microfluidic devices.


Hans Wyss (responsible lecturer)

Jaap den Toonder (lecturer)

Sheen SahebAli (instructor)