Researchers’ opinion on flow control for microfluidics

Researchers opinion about flow control in microfluidics - introductionIntroduction

One of the greatest challenges of researchers using microfluidics is miniaturizing analysis processes in very small microchips. Whether it is named MEMS, lab on chip or microTAS, miniaturization presents several advantages in reducing the size of analysis processes: Analysis is getting cheaper, faster and more efficient.

Need advice to choose your microfluidic flow control?

Feel free to contact us at:

Ask me your question

(We will answer within 24 hours)

Email (Mandatory)

Your needs

Issues of having a suitable instrumentation

For on-chips applications, instrumentation for flow control is a key element as assays performances mainly depends on the instruments used.

There are as many instruments available as there are applications. Since each instrument has specific strengths and weaknesses, researchers using microfluidics must be aware of all of the pros and cons of each instrument to choose the most suitable system for their applications.A hundred of researchers using on-chip microfluidics were interviewed about their instrumentation and their opinion about it.

Choice of technology for microfluidic flow control

The same way as droplet-based microfluidics, the majority of researchers interviewed uses syringe pumps technology for on-chip flow control. It is the most common device for flow control and the choice of using syringe pumps is mainly based on their habits and equipment of their lab.

microfluidic flow control - instruments used for microfluidics

(*)This study is based on the kind answers given by researchers using on-chip microfluidic instruments [1-36]

However, a significant part of these researchers has also recently moved to pressure-driven flow for their on-chip application. Capillary and valves systems are valued for several reasons detailed in the next paragraph.

Vaccuums are systems used by researchers who want to control their experiments at the outlet of their channels[23], or researchers who intend to generate reverse flows.

Advantages & disadvantages of flow control instruments

1) Syringe pumps

Syringe pump is the most commonly used device for flow control. Inspired by medical devices, syringe pumps have been widely applied for microfluidic applications. Most of the syringe pumps are based on a syringe driven by a motor and a rotary screw.


  • Easy to setup and control
  • Precise flow rate control at high flow rate
  • Wide commercial availability due to variety of providers
  • Good reproductivity of the assays


2) Pressure controller

Pressure controller is an alternative to syringe pumps and is based on a simple concept. Reservoirs of fluids connected to the chip are pressurized thanks to an on-air pressure controller. As fluids are incompressible, flow control is perfectly operated thanks to the pressure controller.



  • Using a pressure controller does not enable to know the flow rate (*)
  • Flow rate varies with fluidic resistance when controlling flow in pressure(*)

(*) can be overcome with pressure source including flow rate feedback loop (more informations)

3) Microvalves

Micropumps are commonly based on valves systems. They usually result of a sequential opening and closing of various valves operated by a mechanical, pneumatical or electrokinetical system.


  • Low-cost and fast fabrication
  • Easy operation and maintenance
  • Little dead volume


  • Require external hardware to control valves opening / closing sequences
  • Oscillating  flow rate due to valves opening / closing sequences

4) Capillary

Capillary flow control does not require any external device. Thanks to their hydrophilic walls, microchannels of the chip spontaneously fill with liquids.


  • No need any external pumping system
  • Useful to reduce the amount of external hardware
  • Little dead volume


  • Flow must already be preset
  • Lack of interactivity: it is almost impossible to change the flow rate

Do you like our tutorial ?


We  provide the only microfluidic flow control system using Piezo technology that enables a blazing fast flow change in your microdevice.

Piezo electric microfluidics flow control

[1] Yu JQ et al., Lab Chip, 2013, 13, 2693-2700

[2] Chen Z et al., BioMed Research International, 2013, Article ID 543294

[3] Lim JM et al., Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine, 2013

[4] Yuen PK, Lab Chip, 2013,13, 1737-1742

[5] Goral VN et al., Lab Chip, 2013, 13, 1039-1043

[6] Yuen PK et al., Lab on a Chip, 2011, 11, 3249-3255

[7] Yuen PK et al., Lab on a Chip, 2011, 11, 1541-1544

[8] Goral VN et al., Lab on a Chip, 2010, 10, 3380-3386

[9] Didar TF et al., Lab Chip, 2013, 13, 2615-2622

[10] Dang TD et al., Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces, 2013, Vol. 102, 766-771

[11] Neeves KB et al., PLOS ONE, 2013, 8(1)

[12] Yu F et al., Lab Chip,  2013,13, 1911-1918

[13] Buchanan CF et al., Tissue Engineering Part C: Methods, 2013

[14] Chung YC et al., Nano/Micro Engineered and Molecular Systems (NEMS), 2013, 274 – 277

[15] Lin YC et al., Microfluidics and Nanofluidics, 2013

[16] Munoz X et al., Lab Chip, 2013, Advance Article

[17] Niman CS et al., Lab Chip, 2013,13, 2389-2396

[18] Ankrett DN et al., Journal of Nanobiotechnology 2013, 11:20

[19] Lee H et al., Integr. Biol., 2013,5, 372-380

[20] Shah P et al., Biomedical Microdevices, 2013

[21] Rasooly A et al., Methods in Molecular Biology, 451-471

[22] Arayanarakool A et al., Lab Chip, 2013,13, 1955-1962

[23] Oblath EA et al.,Lab Chip, 2013,13, 1325-1332

[24] Pegard NC et al., J. Biomed. Opt., 2013, 18(4)

[25] Ibarlucea B et al., Analyst, 2013,138, 839-844

[26] Guldiken R et al., Sensors and Actuators A: Physical, 2013, vol. 196, 1-7

[27] Baker BM et al., Lab Chip, 2013,13, 3246-3252

[28] Guo J et al., Biomedical Engineering, 2013

[29] Phillips TM et al., ELECTROPHORESIS, 2013,34, 1530-1538

[30] Hitzbleck M et al., Micromachines, 2013, 4(1)

[31] Huh D et al., Lab Chip, 2012,12, 2156-2164

[32] Esquivel JP et al., Lab Chip, 2012,12, 74-79

[33] Mohan et al., Biosensors and Bioelectronics, 2013, 49, 118–125

[34] Sagar DM et al., Scientific Reports, 2013, 2130

[35] Pamme N, Synthetic biology / Analytical techniques, 2012, 436-443

[36] De Haas TW et al., Lab Chip, 2013, 13(19):3832-9