Opto-microfluidic methods have advantages for manufacturing complex shapes or structures of micro particles/hydrogels. Most of these microfluidic devices are made of polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) by soft lithography because of its flexibility of designing and manufacturing. However, PDMS scatters ultraviolet (UV) light, which polymerizes the photocrosslinkable materials at undesirable locations and clogs the microfluidic devices. A fluorescent dye has previously been employed to absorb the scattered UV light and shift its wavelength to effectively solve this issue. However, this method is limited due to the cost of the materials (tens of dollars per microchip), the time consumed on synthesizing the fluorescent material and verifying its quality (two to three days). More importantly, significant expertise on material synthesis and characterization is required for users of the opto-microfluidic technique. The cost of preliminary testing on multiple iterations of different microfluidic chip designs would also be excessive. Alternatively, with a delicate microchannel design, we simply inserted aluminum foil strips (AFS) inside the PDMS device to block the scattered UV light. By using this method, the UV light was limited to the exposure region so that the opto-microfluidic device could consistently generate microgels longer than 6 h. This is a nearly cost- and labor-free method to solve this issue.

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