Instrumentation & Measurement Magazine 24-4 - 23

Electro-Microfluidic Viscometer
with Integrated Microcontroller
and Pumping System for Point-ofCare
Biosensing Applications
S. B. Puneeth, H. L. Hithesh, and Sanket Goel
V
iscometers are extensively utilized for a wide variety
of sensing and monitoring applications like biomedical
diagnostics, biochemical optimization, fluid
adulteration detection and quality control in pharmaceuticals.
Realizing the viscometer in the lab-on-chip/ microfluidic
domain increases its potential to be a point-of-care device by
making it completely automated and robust. This work presents
the development of a simplified, cost-effective and time
efficient 3D Printed (3DP) Electro-Microfluidic Viscometer
(EMV), with microchannel and intersecting electrodes, in a
single-step process. A completely automated, integrated and
handheld EMV was realized and comprised an in-house made
3DP peristaltic pump and motherboard of a microcontroller,
along with a display unit and the microcontroller to estimate
viscosity. Here, the viscosity values of bovine serum albumin
(BSA), human serum albumin (HSA), and lysozyme enzyme
were measured with respect to the reference fluid before and
after denaturation. The developed device is capable of measuring
viscosity values ranging from 0.5 cP to 10 cP. These
values are within a ±6% limit when compared with a benchtop
viscometer, showing the commercial potential of the present
device with innumerable add-on features.
Towards Microviscometers
In recent decades, considerable improvements have been accomplished
towards the realization of human intrusion free
devices for applications in various domains. Development
of various sensors, actuators and ICs on the PCB platform,
and their integration with the microcontroller, have led to the
accomplishment of completely automated devices. Several devices
have been developed to study various properties of fluid
such as density, pH value, and diffusion coefficient [1], [2].
However, as viscosity is one of the prime parameters that gives
sufficient information of fluid characteristics, the need to realize
a versatile viscometer remains a challenge.
Several tabletop viscometers are actively used but major
shortcomings of these devices are bulkiness, high-cost, brittleness,
and the need for a high sample volume and specially
trained personal to operate them. Most of these challenges can
June 2021
be overcome by leveraging a microfluidic approach which enables
the utilization of only microliters to nanoliters samples
in a miniaturized form-factor. Microscale viscometers, or microviscometers,
were initially realized by scaling down the
existing macroscale viscometers using their current working
methodology. These include miniaturized falling ball viscometers
automated using photointerrupter [3], frequency
response based microviscometers developed using an array
of microcantilevers [4], microviscometers established on an inclined
optical fiber [5], piezoelectric based [6] and paper-based
microviscometers [7]. Although these devices provide a strong
pathway to develop the lab-based microviscometers, besides
fabrication, miniaturizing the experimental setup and device
calibration must be resolved.
In recent years, 3D Printers (3DP) are being extensively
used to fabricate microfluidic devices [8]. An image processing
based viscometer was established in 3D printed microchannels
whereby a microscope was needed for analysis [9], [10],
leading to the requirement of a computer and therefore eliminating
its capability to employ it as point-of-care device.
Further, smartphone based image processing was employed
with add-on optics to achieve better accuracy [11]. Previously,
an attempt was made by our group to fabricate a microviscometer
using Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) based 3DP
on paper [12] and polymer [13], and amperometric based detection
was established. Particularly, using a dual-extruder
3DP, a polymer microfluidic device, with microchannel and
intersecting electrodes, was fabricated [13]. The objective of
this method was to realize a polymer microfluidic viscometer
circumventing the requisite image acquisition based viscosity
measurement, as reported earlier [10]. This was the first
attempt to create a non-optical polymeric microfluidic viscometer;
however, such lab prototype had discrete sub-systems,
which needed to be integrated, and the pumping unit worked
separately and was handled manually.
In this work, an in-house fabricated motherboard of a
microcontroller has been utilized. The microcontroller was
programmed to completely automate and control other subsystems,
such as the display unit and pumping unit. Further, a
IEEE Instrumentation & Measurement Magazine
1094-6969/21/$25.00©2021IEEE
23

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