A Simple Microfluidic Device for Flow Control

Web Published:

Princeton Docket # 12-2739


Researchers at Princeton University have developed a novel device for manipulating liquid flow in micro channels and chambers.   This device is simple and robust, and does not require a power source.


Controlling and directing liquid flow within a microfluidic device is important in a variety of applications ranging from microfluidic diagnosis and analysis to self-healing devices.  Current systems employ external pumps and/or valves, pressure or vacuum methods, electric signals or drivers, or surface tension methodology to move fluids.  While advances in microfluidic accuracy continue to be made using these methods,   the requirement s of external power and/or hardware limit these methods¿ range of use.  Developing a fully internally controlled device allows the use as a highly portable or embeddable tool.


 Princeton inventors have fabricated a simple mechanical device that utilizes elastic deformation (e.g., stretching or bending) within a flexible device to control and direct fluid flow.  The device consists of a microchannel with a flexible arch prepared by buckling a thin elastic film.  The arch prevents fluid flow in its initial, strain-free state.  When the device is stretched or bent, the deformed arch acts as a valve allowing fluid to flow.  The deflection of the arch and the flow rate within the microchannel can be controlled.  By arranging a complex array of flexible arches within a device it is possible to optimize mixing and direct fluid flow towards regions of high stress.



·         Simple

·         Low Cost

·         No external power requirement



·         Microfluidic diagnostics

·         Chemical analysis

·         Adaptable materials

·         Self-healing materials

·         In situ Mixing and Chemistry reactions

·         Pressure sensing


Faculty Inventor

Howard Stone is the Donald R. Dixon '69 and Elizabeth W. Dixon Professor in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University.  His research has been concerned with a variety of fundamental problems in fluid motions dominated by viscosity, so-called low Reynolds number flows, and has frequently featured a combination of theory, computer simulation and modeling, and experiments to provide a quantitative understanding of the flow phenomenon under investigation.  Prof. Stone is the recipient of the most prestigious fluid mechanics prize, the Batchelor Prize 2008, for best research in fluid mechanics in the last ten years.  He is also part of the Class of 2011 inductees of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


Intellectual Property status

Patent protection is pending.

Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
William Gowen
Licensing Associate
Princeton University
Douglas Holmes
Guillaume Froehlicher
Howard Stone
Opto-Electronics/ELE ENG