Student-designed pump cuts diagnostic microfluidics costS. Himmelstein | April 14, 2021
A University of Pittsburgh student has developed open-source design plans for a low cost, 3D-printed peristaltic pump for use with diagnostic microfluidic systems. The pump can be manufactured at a cost of about $120, increasing its availability to point-of-care healthcare professionals in low resource settings.
Designed for microliter-scale liquid handling and amenable to deployment with diagnostic microfluidic systems, the pump operates by peristaltic action of rolling ball bearings applying pressure to the outside of small diameter tubing. The modular device can accept a range of tubing diameters by quickly swapping out 3D-printed parts.
"Since our pump is relatively cheap and easy to build and use, it could enable places with resource constraints to still have advanced diagnostics," said student designer Michael Behrens. "This pump could allow clinicians to run reagents past cells grown in a microfluidic device and do quick on-site testing, or allow high school labs to experiment with modern chemistry and biology research techniques."
The pump is driven by a stepper motor and power is transmitted through a 3D-printed 4:1 gearbox to increase the available torque. The motor is programmable via an open-source microcontroller to precisely control flow rate and direction.
Tests demonstrated the utility of the pump for small volume liquid handling in microfluidic applications, including generation of laminar flow interfaces and controlled sample movement under operator control.
Researchers from the University of Central Florida also contributed to this development, which is described in Scientific Reports.