Finally my paper on how to, in an extremely simple way, fabricate complex 3D microfluidic devices, even with external components embedded directly in the PDMS block. And let me tell you, it was not an easy ride.
Funnily enough, if you open any review or perspective in any journal, one of the most request for microfluidics is to simplify their fabrication. Here I just put some examples from Nature journals:
“For these microfluidic devices to be actually useful, the devices must be usable; that is, these tools must be simple and robust. The ultimate test for the usability of these devices is whether researchers who are not experts in microfluidics—such as most worm biologists—will use them to discover new biology. We encourage you to try!”
“All the signs indicate that there is no simple solution for accelerating the adoption process; however, there are design choices engineers can make in order to lower the barrier to entry for biologists. How the end-user interacts with a new technology is a critical aspect of whether the method is adopted……… problems should be viewed through the lens of user-friendly assay design…”
“Much of today’s microfluidics market is driven by large biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, and the key to larger adoption of microfluidics solutions is to make the devices simpler.”
“Finally, integrated miniaturized systems should eventually be relatively cheap. They will be much more affordable than full lab facilities — not least in developing countries.”
Now, you read all those reviews, comments and perspective, and all of them ask for simple fabrication, cheap and portable microfluidic devices. So you start working on that and you develop a new simple methodology for the fabrication of microfluidics device, you don’t need a clean room anymore, you don’t need to seal the PDMS on another surface anymore. You can even make complex 3D structures or embedding external components in it: heating, sensors, stirring bars, UV-LED and so on. It is also extremely cheap, you can fabricate a working NMR head for less than 2€…. And it’s a methodology paper, that apparently are the most cited papers (at least in Nature journals).
You finish your work and think: it should be extremely easy to publish, isn’t it? At the end you did everything they were constantly asking in review, comments and perspective: simple fabrication, complex devices and cheap. Naturally it was not the case…. I’ll not tell to which journals I sent the paper, nor the editors that didn’t see the improvement of this methodology. I’ll just tell you that it was not easy, not easy at all. The only way to cope with all those rejection was to read this blogpost once every week: Papers that triumphed over their rejections. Not that I’m going to win the Nobel with this paper, but I think it’s quite interesting, and getting rejection over rejection was kind of frustrating. This paper was lying on my desk for a full year, before finally finding an editor and a couple of referees that finally saw the simplicity and the power of this new methodology.
At the end of the day I’m a researcher, I like to be in the lab and coping with rejection is part of the game. A silly frustrating game….
And i like to make videos (as you probably know):
I did also an Homer microfluidics:
and this, for obvious reasons (I swear I didn’t send it to any editors):