Design Automation for Microfluidics
Front-End Research for Continous-Flow Microfluidics
Technological innovations in continuous-flow microfluidics require updated automated synthesis methods. As new microfluidic components and biochemical applications are constantly introduced, the current functionality-based application mapping methods and the fixed-time-slot scheduling methods are insufficient to overcome the new design challenges. Our group therefore has developed a series of front-end design automation methods for continuous-flow microfluidics, with a focus on introducing new components and application characteristics, to provide more practical and effective solutions to the front-end design problems.
In recent years, we also work on the synchronization with real-time systems. Studies have shown a need for an interactive firmware layer in microfluidic platforms that can collect data from on-chip sensors, make decisions based on the collected data, and appropriately allocate resources.
COLUMBA: Co-Layout Design Automation Tool for Microfluidic Large-Scale Integration
Current continuous-flow microfluidic large-scale integration (mLSI) is designed manually, which is time-consuming and error-prone. In recent years, design automation research for mLSI evolves rapidly, aiming to replace manual labor by computers. Our group has developed Columba, which takes plain-text netlist descriptions as inputs, and performs simultaneous placement and routing for multiple layers while ensuring the planarity of each layer. The outputs of Columba are AutoCAD-compatible designs that fulfill all designs rules and can be directly used for mask fabrication (an example of the designs fabricated from Columba outputs are shown on the right). Columba is the first large-scale design automation tool that can seamlessly synchronize with the manufacturing flow of mLSI.
Our future targets are to synchronize Columba with front-end design automation methods and with biochemical applications. We are seeking for collaborations with bioengineering and biochemical experts.
Synthesis and Testing for Homogeneous Microfluidic Large-Scale Integration
Recent advances in manufacturing technologies of continuous-flow microfluidic large-scale integration (mLSI) have enabled valve density to reach 1 million per cm2, and consequently mLSI within a homogeneous architecture (all channel walls and device walls are built by valves) has emerged to achieve higher flexibility and reconfigurability. By controlling the states of valves, channels, storages and mixers can be constructed and destructed dynamically during the assay process.
Our group has worked on developing synthesis and testing methods for homogeneous mLSI. For the synthesis part, our targets include the formation of the devices and the validation of the fluid routing. For the testing part, we focus on modeling representative manufacturing defects and developing efficient defect-screening techniques. We hope that our design automation solutions can facilitate the industrial adoption of homogeneous mLSI.