From Macro to Nano : Electrokinetic Transport and Surface Control

Abstract: Today, the growing and aging population, and the rise of new global threats on human health puts an increasing demand on the healthcare system and calls for preventive actions. To make existing medical treatments more efficient and widely accessible and to prevent the emergence of new threats such as drug-resistant bacteria, improved diagnostic technologies are needed. Potential solutions to address these medical challenges could come from the development of novel lab-on-chip (LoC) for point-of-care (PoC) diagnostics.At the same time, the increasing demand for sustainable energy calls for the development of novel approaches for energy conversion and storage systems (ECS), to which micro- and nanotechnologies could also contribute.This thesis has for objective to contribute to these developments and presents the results of interdisciplinary research at the crossing of three disciplines of physics and engineering: electrokinetic transport in fluids, manufacturing of micro- and nanofluidic systems, and surface control and modification. By combining knowledge from each of these disciplines, novel solutions and functionalities were developed at the macro-, micro- and nanoscale, towards applications in PoC diagnostics and ECS systems.At the macroscale, electrokinetic transport was applied to the development of a novel PoC sampler for the efficient capture of exhaled breath aerosol onto a microfluidic platform.At the microscale, several methods for polymer micromanufacturing and surface modification were developed. Using direct photolithography in off-stoichiometry thiol-ene (OSTE) polymers, a novel manufacturing method for mold-free rapid prototyping of microfluidic devices was developed. An investigation of the photolithography of OSTE polymers revealed that a novel photopatterning mechanism arises from the off-stoichiometric polymer formulation. Using photografting on OSTE surfaces, a novel surface modification method was developed for the photopatterning of the surface energy. Finally, a novel method was developed for single-step microstructuring and micropatterning of surface energy, using a molecular self-alignment process resulting in spontaneous mimicking, in the replica, of the surface energy of the mold.At the nanoscale, several solutions for the study of electrokinetic transport toward selective biofiltration and energy conversion were developed. A novel, comprehensive model was developed for electrostatic gating of the electrokinetic transport in nanofluidics. A novel method for the manufacturing of electrostatically-gated nanofluidic membranes was developed, using atomic layer deposition (ALD) in deep anodic alumina oxide (AAO) nanopores. Finally, a preliminary investigation of the nanopatterning of OSTE polymers was performed for the manufacturing of polymer nanofluidic devices.