Lab Chip, 2009, 9 2632-2637.

High-throughput design of microfluidics based on directed bacterial motility

B. Kaehr and J. B. Shear

Use of motile cells as sensors and actuators in microfabricated devices requires precise design of interfaces between living and non-living components, a process that has relied on slow revision of device architectures as prototypes are sequentially evaluated and re-designed. In this report, we describe a microdesign and fabrication approach capable of iteratively refining three-dimensional bacterial interfaces in periods as short as 10 minutes, and demonstrate its use to drive fluid transport by harnessing flagellar motion. In this approach, multiphoton excitation is used to promote protein photocrosslinking in a direct-write procedure mediated by static and dynamic masking, with the resultant microstructures serving to capture motile bacteria from the surrounding fluidic environment. Reproducible steering and patterning of flagellated E. coli cells drive microfluidic currents capable of guiding micro-objects on predictable trajectories with velocities reaching 150 µm s-1 and achieving bulk flow through microchannels. We show that bacteria can be dynamically immobilized at specified positions, an approach that frees such devices from limitations imposed by the functional lifetime of cells. These results provide a foundation for the development of sophisticated microfluidic devices powered by cells.

Lab Chip