Imported: 06 Mar '17 | Published: 13 Jul '10
USPTO - Utility Patents
Laser-induced phase-separation polymerization of a porous acrylate polymer is used for in-situ fabrication of dialysis membranes inside glass microchannels. A shaped 355 nm laser beam is used to produce a porous polymer membrane with a thickness of about 15 m, which bonds to the glass microchannel and forms a semi-permeable membrane. Differential permeation through a membrane formed with pentaerythritol triacrylate was observed and quantified by comparing the response of the membrane to fluorescein and fluorescently tagging 200 nm latex microspheres. Differential permeation was observed and quantified by comparing the response to rhodamine 560 and lactalbumin protein in a membrane formed with SPE-methylene bisacrylamide. The porous membranes illustrate the capability for the present technique to integrate sample cleanup into chip-based analysis systems.
This application is a divisional application of and claims benefit to Ser. No. 10/443,491 filed May 22, 2003, now U.S. Pat. No. 7,264,723 issued Sep. 9, 2007, entitled DIALYSIS ON MICROCHIPS USING THIN POROUS POLYMER MEMBRANES which claims priority to Provisional U.S. Patent Application Ser. No. 60/423,176 originally filed Nov. 1, 2002 and titled DIALYSIS IN MICROCHIPS USING PHOTOPATTERNED THIN POROUS POLYMER MEMBRANES.
This invention was made with Government support under government contract no. DE-AC04-94AL85000 awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy to Sandia Corporation. The Government has certain rights in the invention, including a paid-up license and the right, in limited circumstances, to require the owner of any patent issuing in this invention to license others on reasonable terms.
The invention is directed specifically to dialysis of chemical and biological samples in a microfabricated device prior to analysis. In general, it relates to enabling selective control of the transport of species (e.g., molecules or particles) in microfluidic channels through the use of a photopatterned porous membrane with controlled pore structure.
Real-life biological, environmental or chemical samples frequently contain a large number of molecules of differing molecular sizes and weights. A few examples of such samples are bodily fluids such as blood, urine and saliva or the contents of a cell. The size of these particles can range from 0.1 mm to less than 1 nm. The presence of particles spanning such a wide range can create a number of is problems in miniaturized systems such as blockage of fluidic channels and adsorption of unwanted molecules on system surfaces (channel fouling). Furthermore, in typical applications, it is often desirable to analyze specific classes of molecules (e.g., proteins); eliminating other particles (e.g., cells, and cell fragments) in order to reduce the background clutter in the sample and thereby simplifying analysis and providing greater sensitivity. In particular, in biomedical applications in order to study cell proteins and signaling molecules, the cell membrane must be ruptured and the contents of the cell released. In practice, cell samples are typically opened by mechanical emulsion or by exposing the cell sample to a denaturing solution. In doing so one is left with a myriad of particles and molecules that must be filtered in order to be analyzed.
Dialysis is a means of separating molecules using a porous membrane. The separation is achieved according to molecular size or molecular weight of the assemblage of molecules under study: molecules smaller than the membrane pore size will pass through the membrane, while larger molecules are excluded. Dialysis, therefore, can be applied to achieve either of two purposes: (a) to remove interfering compounds, contaminants, or salts from a biological sample; or (b) to extract those molecules of interest from a dirty sample or a crowded assemblage of materials. In the former case, the molecules that do not pass through the membrane are of interest while in the latter case those molecules that do move through the membrane are of interest. The driving force for dialysis is the concentration differential between the solutions (sample and perfusion liquid respectively) on either side of the membrane. (For filtration, the process is the same but the driving force is a pressure gradient.) For maximum efficiency, the membrane is made to be as thin as possible while still providing sufficient rigidity and strength to prevent membrane rupture. Moreover, the concentration differential across the membrane is maintained as large as possible, and the membrane pore size distribution is made as narrow as possible such that the tails of the distribution decline rapidly.
Microfluidic devices (specifically, those constructed using glass wet-etching, silicon micromachining, or LIGA-type processes) have in many ways revolutionized the analytical and synthetic capabilities available for chemistry, biology, and medicine (the term microfluidics is herein intended to imply fluidic processes occurring in fluid channels having cross-sectional dimensions below 1 mm and lengths ranging from millimeters to tens of centimeters). A number of analytical techniques have been shown to perform better in microfluidic structures of this type, and synthesis of small structures using the minimum amount of reagents requires efficient use of materials in small channels. Microfluidic devices allow analysis using minute amounts of samples (crucial when analyzing bodily fluids or expensive drug formulations), are fast and enable development of portable systems.
When dealing with small volume samples, however, one of the major problems is a loss of sample due to the transfer of samples to and from the dialysis equipment. When sample is present in such a small volume and not readily available the loss of sample becomes an important consideration.
There is a need, therefore, to develop a method and a device for performing dialysis that does not require the transfer of samples out of the dialyzer and which thereby minimizes handling loss. There are many devices currently available in the market for dialyzing small sample volumes. However, most if not all of these devices require advanced preparation before a sample can be dialyzed.
Moreover, a common feature of these prior art dialysis devices is the need to transfer the sample into the dialysis device for analysis and the need for extracting the sample from the dialysis device after dialysis. These multi-step procedures involve an inevitable loss of sample, are operationally complex, require prolonged analysis times, and make integration and automation difficult and expensive.
Simultaneous miniaturization and integration of the sample pretreatment methods into the miniaturized analysis device not only lead to significant improvement in performance but also allow autonomous operation.
An embodiment of the present invention, therefore, allows for an integrated, miniaturized dialysis device wherein porous polymer membranes are fabricated in-situ in micro channels and used as a size-selective dialysis element to allow for species of different sizes to be distinguished, filtered, and extracted.
The present embodiment consists of a means for dialyzing species in a micro-channel device that is based on the species' size. Utility is achieved by polymerizing a thin porous polymer membrane across a channel intersection within the microchannel device. A membrane of about 0.5 m to about 20 m in thickness can be used for this purpose. Because the shape and thickness of the membrane is controlled primarily by a UV light beam used to initiate a polymerization reaction in a solution contained within a microchannel, control of the excitation light beam focus and collimation can be used to control the membrane thickness. The thickness of the membrane is also negatively affected by photo-initiated radical diffusion, solvent-phase polymer diffusion, and bulk fluid motion within the fluid microchannel. These factors can be controlled by eliminating bulk fluid flow before initiating polymerization, and by the incorporation of polymerization inhibitors to minimize radical diffusion.
In preparing the desired membrane, various monomers and solvents may be chosen to provide a polymerized membrane having a specific distribution of pore size. Moreover, these constituents incorporate specific molecules into the membrane that impart a specific property to the membrane and to the membrane pore structure. Such membranes, therefore, can be adapted or engineered to pass molecules having a specific size or having a specific protein molecular weight cutoff (as measured in Dalton units). Moreover the choice of monomer/solvent combinations can be used to dictate polymer properties such as (i) pore size; (ii) mechanical strength, which can be enhanced by using high polymer cross-linking density (using for example, 1% to 100% of polyfunctional acrylates such as pentaerythritol triacrylate, polyfunctional methacrylate, such as 1,3 butanediol dimethacrylate, or polyfunctional acrylamide, such as methylene bisacrylamide); (iii) hydrophobicity/hydrophilicity, which can be controlled through the choice of monomers, e.g., ethylene glycol diacrylate, or zwitterionic molecules, for hydrophilicity, and alkyl-acrylates for hydrophobicity; and (iv) polymer charge, which can be controlled through incorporation of charged monomers into the membrane, such as, [2-(acryloyloxy)ethyl] ammonium methyl sulfate salt (MOE) for positive charge, 2-acrylamido-2-methyl-1-propanesulfonic acid (AMPS) for negative charge.
Of all of these properties, however, pore size is most common and most important. By utilizing carefully chosen appropriate combinations of monomers and solvents such as are shown in TABLE 1, pore sizes may be adjusted from small to large in the dialysis membrane. In particular, for a given concentration of solute, solvents that are characterized as strong with respect to the solute monomer provide for a smaller average pore size upon polymerization, while solvents characterized as weak provide for a larger average pore size. Utilizing a monomer such as SPE (N,N-dimethyl-N-(2 methacryloyl oxyethyl)-N-(3 sulfopropyl) ammonium betaine) and a solvent such as water, an average pose size of 1 nm to 3 nm is achieved, while a monomer such as pentaerythritol triacrylate with a solvent such as 1-propanol, the measured pore size is about 30 nm.
This embodiment of the invention allows for two or more liquids (one sample liquid and one or more perfusion liquids) to be brought into contact on a microfluidic chip separated only by a thin (0.5 m-100 m) photopatterned porous polymer membrane; concentration gradient-driven diffusion will cause those molecules whose size is smaller than the membrane pore size to be transported from sample through the membrane to the perfusion liquids. Implementing this in a microfluidic chip format allows molecules having a size range of interest to be transported to analysis channels (e.g., chemical separation), to reaction zones (labeling, enzymatic), or to off-chip sites for mass spectrometry.
A variety of geometries may be used to implement on-chip dialysis, including co-flow and counter-flow operation, single- and multiple-membrane configuration, straight and tortuous path configuration, and both single-pass and recirculating configurations. In particular, FIG. 5 illustrates an example of a counter-flow geometry wherein the dialysis is 1 cm in length.
Polymer Formulation In-situ Photopatterning of Polymer Membrane
Standard glass microchips having conventional cross-shaped channels were obtained from Micralyne; chemicals were obtained from Aldrich and used as received. In order to facilitate bonding between the glass surfaces within the channels and the polymer membrane, the glass surfaces within the microchannels were first exposed to a 2:2:1 (by volume) mixture of water, glacial acetic acid, and 3-(trimethoxysilylpropyl)acrylate for a period of 30 minutes, covalently linking the silane to the wall and exposing the acrylate group for polymerization.
Following surface treatment, the microchannels are filled with a monomer/solvent/photo-initiator solution comprising the following formulation. A monomer mixture consisting of 95% (by weight) of SPE (N,N-dimethyl-N-(2 methacryloyl oxyethyl)-N-(3 sulfopropyl) ammonium betaine) cross-linked with 5% (by weight) N,N-methylene bisacrylamide is prepared. The monomer mixture is subsequently incorporated into a quantity of water to yield a 40:60 monomer:solvent solution and includes 0%-30% (by weight) of an organic additive to help control pore size and a small amount of a buffer solution to control the pH of the solution mixture. In the present formulation, the organic additive was about 2% (by weight) 2-methoxyethanol, although C1-C3 alcohols or acetonitrile could be used also) and the buffer solution was about a 2% (by weight) 10 mM concentration of a phosphate buffer solution to maintain the monomer/solvent solution mixture at a pH of 5.5.
Lastly, a small quantity of a commercial grade photo-initiator is added to the monomer/solvent solution mixture to render the solution sensitive to UV light exposure. In the present case, the photo-initiator was 2,2-Azobis (2-methylpropionamide) dihydrochloride, purchased from Wako Chemicals USA, Inc., a division of Wako Pure Chemical Industries, Ltd., Osaka, Japan, under the trade name of V-50. This material is added to the monomer/solvent solution in concentrations of generally about 10 mg/ml of the monomer solution and complete the polymerizable solution formulation used to create the dialysis membrane of the present invention.
The other monomer/solvent solution mixture formulations are, of course, possible, including each of those listed in Table 1. Other photo-initiators are also possible, particularly [2,2-Azobis-isobutyronitrile], also known as AIBN or V-40, again purchased from Wako Chemicals USA, Inc. However, the formulation recited above is preferred for practicing dialysis as described herein.
After preparing the interior surfaces of the microchannel system and filling it with the single phase monomer/solvent solution the intersection region of the to microchannels was then exposed to a focused, collimated beam of UV laser light, shown in FIG. 2. As this beam of light interacts with the single phase solution a phase-separation polymerization reaction is initiated (and catalyzed by the presence of the photo-initiator) within the cross-sectional region of the microchannel into which the laser light is imaged. The polymerization reaction eventually produces the is desired porous membrane within the microchannel as shown schematically in FIG. 1. Actual images of operational membranes are shown in FIGS. 3B and 3C as well as FIGS. 4B-4E.
As shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, a thin (4 m-14 m) porous polymer membrane is fabricated in-situ in glass micro channels by projection lithography; shaping and focusing the 355 nm output of a 12 kHz, 800 ps-pulse, 160 nJ-pulse, frequency-tripled Nd:YAG laser into a 1-2 m sheet and using this sheet to generate photo-initiated phase separation polymerization in the irradiated region. The thickness of the laser sheet was minimized by spatially filtering the focused laser output beam with a 2 m slit and imaging the resulting diffraction pattern at 0.5 magnification onto the desired channel location into which the membrane is to be formed.
As noted above, a related photolithography technique is described in commonly owned U.S. patent Ser. No. 10/141,906, now U.S. Pat. No. 6,952,962. However, this reference recites a contact photolithographic process that is inoperable in the present case. Because the imaging light beam must propagate through roughly a millimeter of glass covering the embedded microchannel in which the membrane is to be formed, the incoming light is subject to degradation due to the effects of diffraction and dispersion. In order to overcome these problems the Applicants have adapted projection photolithography techniques for focusing an image of the desired structure cross-section into the region of the microchannel and thus avoiding the problems of image integrity in the former technique as applied to the present embodiment. The process is described in greater detail in Voltage-addressable on/off microvalves for high-pressure microchip separations, (J. Chromatography A; 979, pp. 147-154, 2002), herein incorporated by reference.
The final thickness of the membrane, however, is determined by factors that include more than just the optical properties of the incident laser beam sheet.
The membrane thickness is also affected by diffusion of radical species, by solved-phase polymer diffusion, and by bulk fluid motion. Effects of radical diffusion are reduced by retaining the natural polymerization inhibitors present in the system (15 ppm hydroquinone monomethyl ether, solved O2); this effectively decreases the chemical lifetime and diffusion length of the radical products of photo-dissociation.
Laser excitation was terminated upon the onset of phase separation. Phase separation was inferred from light scattering from the membrane-fluid interface.
Following polymerization, the system was flushed thoroughly with 1-propanol and water to remove residual polymer/monomer/solvent material and then filled with aqueous solutions for testing. The nominal pore size of the present embodiment of porous polymer was established to be about 1 nm to about 3 nm as measured with mercury porosimetry, BET, and with SEM.
Examples of Dialysis Operation in Membranes of the Present Invention
FIGS. 3A through 3C illustrate one embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 3A shows a schematic of the channel configuration. The operation of the porous membrane is shown in FIG. 3C by filling the channel assembly on one side of the polymerized membrane with an aqueous solution of fluorescein (MW=0.33 kDa, =1 nm); or as shown in FIG. 3B with an aqueous suspension containing 200 nm, carboxylate-modified, fluorescein-impregnated latex spheres (Molecular Probes), while filling the opposite side of each of these channel assemblies with water. Both solutions were allowed to come to rest and the extent of species migration (fluorescein or latex spheres) across the membrane observed over a period of several minutes using 488 nm light to excite fluorescence in the fluorescein. As can be seen in FIG. 3C, fluorescein readily diffuses across the membrane while in FIG. 3B the 200 nm latex spheres do not, suggesting that the pore size cutoff for this membrane is below 200 nm since fluorescein molecules (having a diameter that is about 1 nm) pass freely through the membrane while the latex spheres are blocked. This observation is corroborated with SEM, Hg porosimetry, and BET porosimetry.
A second embodiment is shown in FIGS. 4A-F wherein the membrane, shown as element 40 diagonally separating intersecting fluid channels 41 and 42, is subjected to a similar test as is illustrated in FIGS. 3B and 3C. In the present case, however, the test was modified to improve the granularity of the attempt to determine the molecular weight cut-off of the SPE membrane. In this case, the microchannel system was exposed to free dye (Rhodamine 560, MW=0.37 kDa, =1 nm) and a solution containing FITC-labeled proteins with different molecular weights. In particular, the response of insulin (MW=5.7 kDa), lactalbumin (MW=14 kDa, 5-6 nm), bovine serum albumin (MW=66 kDa), and anti-biotin (MW=150 kDa) in their ability to diffuse through the membrane was tested. FIGS. 4A and 4B show the rapid permeation of the Rhodamine dye through the membrane. As seen in FIG. 4B, at 20 seconds after its introduction the rhodamine dye has already migrated well into both arms of the fluid channels to the right of the membrane 40. However, FIGS. 4C and 4D show that insulin (5.7 kDa) experiences only barely measurable diffusion through the membrane, and FIGS. 4E and 4F show that lactalbumin presents virtually no measurable diffusion across the membrane even after a residence time of over 12 minutes. The larger species, i.e., those having MW14 kDa, also show no diffusion and for brevity are not shown. These preliminary results, therefore, demonstrate that control of molecular weight cutoff through these porous polymer membranes is achievable by precisely engineering the constitution of water/2-methoxyethanol solutions.
Finally, because combinations of monomers and solvents may be chosen to provide specific pore size distributions (as noted above), those skilled in the art will realize that a dialysis device may be provided having a plurality of membranes each exhibiting a unique specific pore size which would allow for isolating particles in is any specific size range for any specific application. Moreover, the method described herein is applicable to many different geometries. FIGS. 2 and 3A illustrate a simple variation of the present technique wherein the membrane diagonally separates a junction made by two intersecting channels and is an example of cross-flow dialysis. FIG. 5 illustrates a counter-flow geometry wherein the membrane divides a single channel that connects two widely separated channel junctions by interconnecting a series of intermediate spaced support posts. The geometry of FIG. 5 has been successfully fabricated with membranes lengths of up to 1 cm.
FIGS. 6A-6D illustrate additional embodiments of the counter-flow geometry shown in FIG. 5 wherein the membrane divides the separation channel 60 once, in the case of FIG. 6A or twice, as in the case of FIG. 6B. As before the dialysis structure is fabricated by interconnecting a series of intermediate spaced posts 62 which bisect fluid channel 61 with short segments 63 of the polymer membrane. It is also possible to construct a separation channel capable of selecting species having a graded series of molecular weights (sizes). As shown in FIG. 6C, wherein channel network 60 contains groups 67 and 68 of membrane segments 63 spaced out along the length of polymer membrane 69. Two groups are shown but it is obvious that more groups could be used. The structure achieves its utility for selecting particles having more than one range of molecular weights when each of the segments of a particular group of segments is fabricated with a polymer material that has a different average molecular cut-off pore size and when the groups are arranged in a logical order (ascending or descending) for its intended use. The particular configuration shown in FIG. 6C allows for molecular species with increasing molecular size to pass from the sample stream as the stream passes along the length of the membrane. While two sections are shown in FIG. 6C, in principle, any number of sections is possible.
Finally, as shown in FIG. 6D the length of the separation network of FIG. 6A can be increased by convoluting the fluid channel. This allows for compact structures while still allowing for sufficient dialysis length to achieve the intended separation result.
It is, therefore, apparent that due to the flexibility of the present process other geometries are possible and are limited only by the routineer's ability to provide the necessary lithographic tools.