Novel Differential Flow Microvalve Design

At a Glance

Researchers at Colorado State University have developed a novel microvalve designed to provide a simple, more reliable mechanism to move small amounts of fluid within a microfluidic environment.  The design exhibits several unique and innovative features:

  • Eliminates mechanical moving parts that tend to break down easily over time
  • 4 microfluidic channel dimensions suitable to a variety of fluidic viscosities and valve response times
  • Volume dispensed by the microvalve is fixed and dependent on the target dispensing well, eliminating additive errors
  • Flexible membranes with flapped pinholes allow controlled fluid leakage


Microvalves are microscale valves that regulate the flow of fluids and are the basic components of microfluidic devices (e.g. Labs-on-chips) where they control fluidic transport. Due to their small size, these valves are relatively light and well suited for portable applications and can be integrated in higher-level automated systems. Microvalves are used in many different types of equipment across various industries to control liquids and gases, e.g. industrial pneumatics, inkjet printers, satellites, electronic motors, fuel cells, and in vitro diagnostics.

Research applications utilizing conventional digital microfluidic technologies face many challenges, as microvalves are often applicable to a narrow range of fluid types, with limited reliability of fluid movement, and ample design complexity. These limitations hinder drug discovery and diagnostic applications. What is needed, is a more reliable, simple, and scalable design that overcomes these issues.


  • Design parameters are easy to control
  • Scalable design to allow multiple micro-valves to operate simultaneously
  • Fluid leakage is controlled by thin flexible membranes with flapped pinholes
  • Volume dispensed is fixed, eliminating additive errors
  • No mechanical moving parts that breakdown
  • Simple and reliable design
  • Allows movement of tiny amounts of fluid within controlled environments
  • Can be easily integrated with sensors


  • Smart well plates and high-throughput smart well plate platforms
  • Automation in in vitro diagnostics and drug discovery
  • Medical devices for diagnostic applications
  • Other industries that require micro-valves (e.g. petrol injection, inkjet printers)
Last Updated: February 2020

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