Implementation and Assessment of Student-Made Microfluidic Devices in the General Chemistry Laboratory

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Microfluidic technologies exploit the distinctive physical phenomena present at the nano and microscale. From the refinement of classic laboratory techniques and the integration of multiple laboratory processes in a single device, to the development of the organ-on-a-chip concept, the field of microfluidics is changing the way in which scientists across disciplines conduct cutting-edge research. Facilitating access to microfluidic devices for new generations of science students at the high school and undergraduate level will be instrumental in creating awareness of the current and potential uses of this technology. The aims of this work are to present students with a hands-on introduction to the field of microfluidics and to make available the device's unique properties for the teaching of basic chemistry concepts. The approach utilizes thermal lamination as a dynamic, low cost method to provide students with the ability to design, fabricate, and test high quality microfluidic devices in a single session of the general chemistry laboratory. Thermal lamination differs from other chip-building techniques previously used in the classroom in that device fabrication takes place in a matter of minutes and does not require soft-lithography, etching, nor the use of PDMS or glass. The student-made devices are robust, have well defined dimensions and may adopt a wide variety of channel designs. We implemented an experiment in which students tested pre-built devices as well as devices of their own design, and measured a positive impact on their perception of microfluidics and micro and nanoscale phenomena like laminar flow and diffusion. The student's conceptual understanding of microfluidics was also improved after the experiment. A detailed description of the approach and a comprehensive assessment of the student experience are provided.



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