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3D printing self-supporting microfluidic structures

26 December 2020

Piping Up

The human body is a maze of pipes – carrying blood and water, along with important chemicals, to and from cells and tissues. Outside the body, researchers use microfluidic devices to mimic currents in our biological plumbing, aiming to see how cells react and respond when different chemicals pass by. But here they’re going a few steps further, 3D printing microfluidic tubes from a rubbery silicone a bit like piping out icing – although 100 times smaller than a cupcake topping – carefully building up the sides of 3D vessels and chambers. The finished self-supporting tubes are quicker to fabricate than by common methods in microfluidics and can be shaped onto curved surfaces, raising hopes of one day printing microfluidic devices directly onto skin, as sensors to monitor bodily fluids.

Written by John Ankers

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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