Thermally driven microfluidic pumping via reversible shape memory polymers

J. M. Robertson, R. X. Rodriguez, L. R. Holmes, P. T. Mather, E. D. Wetzel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


The need exists for autonomous microfluidic pumping systems that utilize environmental cues to transport fluid within a network of channels for such purposes as heat distribution, self-healing, or optical reconfiguration. Here, we report on reversible thermally driven microfluidic pumping enabled by two-way shape memory polymers. After developing a suitable shape memory polymer (SMP) through variation in the crosslink density, thin and flexible microfluidic devices were constructed by lamination of plastic films with channels defined by laser-cutting of double-sided adhesive film. SMP blisters integrated into the devices provide thermally driven pumping, while opposing elastic blisters are used to generate backpressure for reversible operation. Thermal cycling of the device was found to drive reversible fluid flow: upon heating to 60 °C, the SMP rapidly contracted to fill the surface channels with a transparent fluid, and upon cooling to 8 °C the flow reversed and the channel re-filled with black ink. Combined with a metallized backing layer, this device results in refection of incident light at high temperatures and absorption of light (at the portions covered with channels) at low temperatures. We discuss power-free, autonomous applications ranging from thermal regulation of structures to thermal indication via color change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number085043
JournalSmart Materials and Structures
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jul 29 2016


  • microfluidic pump
  • reversible flow
  • shape memory polymer
  • thermally driven flow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Signal Processing
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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