Microfluidic chips made of polymer materials such as polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), polyimide, and cyclic olefin co-polymer have cost and manufacturing advantages over materials such as fused silica and borosilicate glass. While these materials have been extensively investigated, polymethylhydrosiloxane (PMHS) is an alternative that has a unique combination of properties in terms of UV transparency and potential for chemical surface modification. The present study investigates process development and characterization of PMHS as a new candidate material for microfluidic chip applications, in particular separation processes that would benefit from the ability to custom-engineer its surface conditions. This paper compares different approaches for fabricating microchannel features as well as options for enhancing the surface area of the channel walls. The fabrication methods include replication by casting over patterned molds, soft lithography casting, and material removal by laser ablation. Casting into solid form is achieved in 48-hours at 110 °C. Laser ablation is studied with energy dose varying from 2 mJ to 160 mJ per millimeter scanned, with channels approximately 100 microns wide occurring at 0.2 mJ/mm. Mechanical characterization is applied to quantify the hardness of cast PMHS, because fine-resolution features are limited by mold removal. PMHS samples have been measured to have a Shore A hardness of 46.2, similar to PDMS that is well-established in polymer microfluidic devices. Surface enhancement techniques including laser and plasma treatment are investigated for the prospective benefit of separation processes that require high surface-to-volume ratio. Spectrophotometry shows that PMHS exhibits transmittance even below 250 nm, which is favorable for sample analysis by UV absorption methods.

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