Review Article

Interplay between materials and microfluidics

  • Nature Reviews Materials 2, Article number: 17016 (2017)
  • doi:10.1038/natrevmats.2017.16
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Abstract

Developments in the field of microfluidics have triggered technological revolutions in many disciplines, including chemical synthesis, electronics, diagnostics, single-cell analysis, micro- and nanofabrication, and pharmaceutics. In many of these areas, rapid growth is driven by the increasing synergy between fundamental materials development and new microfluidic capabilities. In this Review, we critically evaluate both how recent advances in materials fabrication have expanded the frontiers of microfluidic platforms and how the improved microfluidic capabilities are, in turn, furthering materials design. We discuss how various inorganic and organic materials enable the fabrication of systems with advanced mechanical, optical, chemical, electrical and biointerfacial properties — in particular, when these materials are combined into new hybrids and modular configurations. The increasing sophistication of microfluidic techniques has also expanded the range of resources available for the fabrication of new materials, including particles and fibres with specific functionalities, 3D (bio)printed composites and organoids. Together, these advances lead to complex, multifunctional systems, which have many interesting potential applications, especially in the biomedical and bioengineering domains. Future exploration of the interactions between materials science and microfluidics will continue to enrich the diversity of applications across engineering as well as the physical and biomedical sciences.

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Acknowledgements

The authors acknowledge funding from the US National Institutes of Health (AR057837, DE021468, D005865, AR068258, AR066193, EB022403, EB021148), the Air Force Office of Scientific Research Award (USA, FA9550-15-1-0273), the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (USA), Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (Mexico, scholarships 262130 and 234713), Tecnológico de Monterrey (Mexico), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) International Science and Technology Initiatives and Fundación México en Harvard. This research has been partially funded by the Tecnológico de Monterrey and MIT Nanotechnology Program. X.H. acknowledges the support of the Recruitment Program for Young Professionals (China), the National Natural Science Foundation (China, 21673197), and the Research Institute for Biomimetics and Soft Matter, Fujian Provincial Key Laboratory for Soft Functional Materials Research, Xiamen University (China), supported by the 111 Project (B16029). Y.S.Z. acknowledges the National Cancer Institute of the US National Institutes of Health Pathway to Independence Award (K99CA201603). J.R. acknowledges support from the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (SFRH/BD/51679/2011). P.S.W., A.M.A. and J.A. acknowledge support from the Kavli Foundation (USA). A.M.A. acknowledges support from the Hatos Center for Neuropharmacology (USA). S.J.J. acknowledges the support of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Training Program through its Clinical Fellowship Training Award Program, as well as the UCLA Children's Discovery and Innovation Institute's Fellows Research Support Award.

Author information

Author notes

    • Xu Hou
    •  & Yu Shrike Zhang

    These authors contributed equally to this work.

Affiliations

  1. Biomaterials Innovation Research Center, Division of Engineering in Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.

    • Xu Hou
    • , Yu Shrike Zhang
    • , Grissel Trujillo-de Santiago
    • , Mario Moisés Alvarez
    • , João Ribas
    •  & Ali Khademhosseini
  2. Harvard–MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.

    • Xu Hou
    • , Yu Shrike Zhang
    • , Grissel Trujillo-de Santiago
    • , Mario Moisés Alvarez
    • , João Ribas
    •  & Ali Khademhosseini
  3. College of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Xiamen University.

    • Xu Hou
  4. College of Physical Science and Technology, Xiamen University.

    • Xu Hou
  5. Pen-Tung Sah Institute of Micro-Nano Science and Technology, State Key Laboratory of Physical Chemistry of Solid Surfaces, Collaborative Innovation Center of Chemistry for Energy Materials, Xiamen University, Xiamen, Fujian 361005, China.

    • Xu Hou
  6. Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA.

    • Yu Shrike Zhang
    • , Paul S. Weiss
    •  & Joanna Aizenberg
  7. Microsystems Technologies Laboratories, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.

    • Grissel Trujillo-de Santiago
    • , Mario Moisés Alvarez
    •  & Ali Khademhosseini
  8. Centro de Biotecnología-FEMSA, Tecnológico de Monterrey at Monterrey, CP 64849, Monterrey, Nuevo León, México.

    • Grissel Trujillo-de Santiago
    •  & Mario Moisés Alvarez
  9. Doctoral Programme in Experimental Biology and Biomedicine, Institute for Interdisciplinary Research, University of Coimbra, Coimbra 3030–789, Portugal.

    • João Ribas
  10. Department of Pediatrics, David Geffen School of Medicine, Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research, and Children's Discovery and Innovation Institute, University of California, Los Angeles.

    • Steven J. Jonas
  11. California NanoSystems Institute and Departments of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and of Materials Science and Engineering, University of California, Los Angeles.

    • Steven J. Jonas
    •  & Paul S. Weiss
  12. California NanoSystems Institute and Departments of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, and of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California, Los Angeles, California 90095, USA.

    • Anne M. Andrews
  13. John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA.

    • Joanna Aizenberg
  14. Department of Bioindustrial Technologies, College of Animal Bioscience and Technology, Konkuk University, Seoul 143–701, Republic of Korea.

    • Ali Khademhosseini
  15. Department of Physics, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah 21589, Saudi Arabia.

    • Ali Khademhosseini

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Paul S. Weiss or Anne M. Andrews or Joanna Aizenberg or Ali Khademhosseini.