Research from Santosh Pandey‘s lab at Iowa State U, published in Lab on a Chip and highlighted in Cytofluidix, shows actuation of paper microfluidics switches/valves with effective, fast performance. Several different configurations were demonstrated, including single-pole-single-throw (normally open and normally closed), single-pole-double-throw, by analogy to electrical switch terminology. The switches appear to actuate in seconds, which is suitable for many paper microfluidics applications. A video of the switches in action can be viewed on YouTube.
Several key advantages come to mind with this advance. Paper microfluidics has simplicity, low cost manufacture and portability amongst its key attributes, but these are less credible if the devices also require expensive, power-intensive peripheral hardware for e.g. fluid movement, valve actuation, detector operation, communications, etc. Implementation of this technology in a commercial product might reduce or eliminate the need for expensive pumps and valves (and accompanying electrical power consumption) for fluid flow and valving on a device. This could enable very low cost analysis applications targeting harsh or remote environments.