To direct liquid flow inside microchannels, surface free energies were patterned by use of self-assembled monolayers (SAMs) in combination with either multistream laminar flow or photolithography. For the photolithographic method, two photocleavable SAMs were designed and synthesized. Carboxylic acid-terminated monolayers were obtained by photodeprotection, which was confirmed by contact angle and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. Using either of these patterning methods, we show that aqueous liquids flow only along the hydrophilic pathways when the pressure is maintained below a critical value; the liquids are referred to as being confined by virtual walls. Several principles of liquid flow in surface-patterned channels were derived analytically and verified experimentally. These principles include the maximum pressure that virtual walls can withstand, the critical width of the hydrophilic pathway that can support spontaneous flow, the smallest width of the liquid streams under an external pressure, the critical radius of curvature of turns that can be introduced into the hydrophilic pathway without liquid crossing the hydrophilic-hydrophobic boundary, and the minimal distance for two liquid streams to remain separated under the maximum pressure. Experimental results are in good agreement with the analytical predictions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4259-4268
Number of pages10
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 15 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry


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