473078 Micro-Fluidics As a Versatile Platform to Promote High Impact Hands-on Learning Experience in Chemical Engineering Classrooms

Tuesday, November 15, 2016: 2:29 PM
Continental 3 (Hilton San Francisco Union Square)
Aashish Priye, Sandia National Laboratory, Livermore, CA and Victor M. Ugaz, Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX

The pedagogical value of hands on experience that a laboratory provides to aid science and engineering education is well known, but they are often resource and time intensive to execute. Thus, there is a need to seamlessly incorporate innovative experimental and cross disciplinary experiences into classrooms. Microfluidics offers an ideal platform for such educational experiences owing to its inherent low cost and portable implementation, overcoming barriers that have previously hindered the ability to embed sustainable high impact learning in classrooms. Here we introduce a series of “Do it yourself” (DIY) format microfluidic experiments which are simple enough to be executed by undergraduate students while simultaneously exciting them to recognize how interdisciplinary knowledge can be applied to develop new products and technologies that benefit society.

Firstly, we present a capillary based microfluidic viscometer incorporating a simple design where the students can track the motion of colored fluid with their smartphones as it is driven by capillary action. This simple setup not only enables students to measure rheological properties of fluid without dedicated rheometers, but also presents them with a more intuitive interface to visualize the effect of system parameters on the rheological properties of the fluid. Secondly, we experimentally demonstrated the calculation of pressure losses in microfluidic flow systems with the aim to verify the standard pressure loss correlation as a function of flow Reynolds numbers and also measure the pressure drop across various microfluidic flow resistors. Finally, we also introduced chemical engineering students to molecular biology by challenging them to harness microscale natural convection phenomena to perform DNA replication via the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). For this demonstration, we constructed convective PCR stations incorporating a simple design for loading and mounting cylindrical microfluidic reactors between independently controlled thermal plates. A portable motion analysis microscope enables flow patterns inside the convective reactors to be directly visualized using fluorescent bead tracers [1]. The problem of microscale convective PCR provides a particularly effective vehicle to connect concepts bridging the physical, chemical, and life sciences. A cognitive assessment reveals that these activities strongly impact student learning in a positive way.

[1] Priye, Aashish, Yassin A. Hassan, and Victor M. Ugaz. "Education: DNA replication using microscale natural convection." Lab on a Chip 12.23 (2012): 4946-4954.

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See more of this Session: Labs and Hands-on Activities at Scale (large classes)
See more of this Group/Topical: Education Division