Microfluidic platforms provide several advantages for liquid-liquid extraction (LLE) processes over conventional methods, for example with respect to lower consumption of solvents and enhanced extraction efficiencies due to the inherent shorter diffusional distances. Here, we report the development of polymer-based parallel-flow microfluidic platforms for LLE. To date, parallel-flow microfluidic platforms have predominantly been made out of silicon or glass due to their compatibility with most organic solvents used for LLE. Fabrication of silicon and glass-based LLE platforms typically requires extensive use of photolithography, plasma or laser-based etching, high temperature (anodic) bonding, and/or wet etching with KOH or HF solutions. In contrast, polymeric microfluidic platforms can be fabricated using less involved processes, typically photolithography in combination with replica molding, hot embossing, and/or bonding at much lower temperatures. Here we report the fabrication and testing of microfluidic LLE platforms comprised of thiolene or a perfluoropolyether-based material, SIFEL, where the choice of materials was mainly guided by the need for solvent compatibility and fabrication amenability. Suitable designs for polymer-based LLE platforms that maximize extraction efficiencies within the constraints of the fabrication methods and feasible operational conditions were obtained using analytical modeling. To optimize the performance of the polymer-based LLE platforms, we systematically studied the effect of surface functionalization and of microstructures on the stability of the liquid-liquid interface and on the ability to separate the phases. As demonstrative examples, we report (i) a thiolene-based platform to determine the lipophilicity of caffeine and (ii) a SIFEL-based platform to extract radioactive copper from an acidic aqueous solution.
- Extraction of radiometals
- Functionalization of microchannels
- Lipophilicity of drugs
- Organic solvent compatibility
- Parallel-flow microfluidic platform
- Two-phase flow