Microfluidics is a multidisciplinary field intersecting engineering, physics, chemistry, biochemistry, nanotechnology, and biotechnology, with practical applications to the design of systems in which low volumes of fluids are processed to achieve multiplexing, automation, and high-throughput screening. Microfluidics emerged in the beginning of the 1980s and is used in the development of inkjet printheads, DNA chips, lab-on-a-chip technology, micro-propulsion, and micro-thermal technologies. It deals with the behavior, precise control and manipulation of fluids that are geometrically constrained to a small, typically sub-millimeter, scale. Typically, micro means one of the following features:
1. small volumes (µL, nL, pL, fL)
2. small size
3. low energy consumption
4. effects of the micro domain
Typically fluids are moved, mixed, separated or otherwise processed. Numerous applications employ passive fluid control techniques like capillary forces. In some applications external actuation means are additionally used for a directed transport of the media. Examples are rotary drives applying centrifugal forces for the fluid transport on the passive chips. Active microfluidics refers to the defined manipulation of the working fluid by active (micro) components such as micropumps or micro valves. Micro pumps supply fluids in a continuous manner or are used for dosing. Micro valves determine the flow direction or the mode of movement of pumped liquids. Often processes which are normally carried out in a lab are miniaturized on a single chip in order to enhance efficiency and mobility as well as reducing sample and reagent volumes.