Switchable Microfluidics

The program division Switchable Microfluidics arose from the Junior Research Group Switchable Microfluidics built in 2015. It is supported by the project “organic/synthetic multifunctional meso-production units” of Leibniz Research Cluster (LRC) and aims to develop switchable structural surfaces to meet emerging needs in biosynthesis, biomedicine, antifouling, optical imaging, adhesion, and other areas. The research in our group includes the design and synthesis of novel responsive materials that can change their properties under external stimuli, it involves organic synthesis, polymerization, surface modification, device fabrication, and application demonstration.


Dr. Cui, Jiaxi 1
Head of Switchable Microfluidics
Phone: +49 (0)681-9300-350
Phone: +49 (0)681-9300-397
    Switchable micro/meso-structural surface

    We are interested switchable surface with micro/meso-structure. Currently, we are developing novel switchable meso-structural surfaces as micro-reactor platforms that permit simultaneous and unprecedented levels of control over reaction pathways. This project is inspired by the compartmentalized synthetic strategy in living cells: chemical reactions initiated under defined conditions conclude at the required degree with the desired product, which can be automatically transferred to the next reaction compartment, in a programmable and precisely controlled mode. To mimic this, we design a complex structure consisting of a meso-structured surface with geometrically arranged hollow pillars and a soft actuating system that can switch the channels. We develop various actuating soft materials such as responsive hydrogels, liquid-crystal elastomers, magnet composites etc, study the interfacial adhesion between different materials and investigate meso/micro-fabrication technologies.

    Figure 1

    Representative Publication

    • Cui, J., Miguel, V.S., del Campo, A. (2013) Light-triggered multifunctionality at surfaces mediated by photolabile protecting groups. Macromol Rapid Commun 34: 310-329.- doi: 10.1002/marc.201200634
    • Cui, J., Drotlef, D.-M, Larraza, I., Fernandez-Blazquez, J.P., Boesel, L.F., et al. (2012) Bioinspired actutated adhesive patterns of liquid crystalline elastomers. Adv Mater 24: 4601-4604.- doi: 10.1002/adma.201200895
    Mobile surface

    Liquid constitutes a novel structure material to create multifunctional surfaces. We are interested in developing responsive liquids for fabricating responsive mobile surfaces with switchable wettability, penetrability, optical properties, self-healing ability, adhesion etc. We also focus on dynamic substrates for stabilizing liquids in a control mode such as control release, localization, mobility, migration, transport, and storage of liquids. With these mobile surfaces, we demonstrate their potential application as anti-fouling, self-healing coatings or templates for fabricating high performance soft matter.

    Figure 2

    Hydrogel materials

    Hydrogels are materials that consist of crosslinked polymer networks dispersed in water. They can undergo significant volume change under external stimuli and thus constitute promising actuating systems. However, the relatively poor mechanical behavior of hydrogels remains a challenge, impeding their use in real-world applications that require mechanical integrity. We design dynamic crosslinking mechanisms for reinforcing the mechanical performance of hydrogels and explore  their potential applications in the field of both engineering and medicine.

    Figure 3

    Representative Publications:

    • Jeon, I., Cui, J., Illeperuma, W.R.K., Vlassak, J.J., Aizenberg, J. (2016) Extremely Stretchable and Fast Self-Healing Hydrogels. Adv Mater.- doi: 10.1002/adma.201600480
    • Cui, J., del Campo, A. (2012) Multivalent H-bonds for self-healing hydrogels. Chem Commun 48: 9302-9304.- doi: 10.1039/C2CC34701F
    Swollen elastomers

    We study swollen elastomer materials or as-prepared organogel, including their fabrication, microstructure, surface properties, mechanical performance, reactions between polymer chains and reactants in liquid phase etc.

    Figure 4

    Representative Publication:

    • Cui J, Daniel D, Grinthal A, Lin K, Aizenberg J (2015) Dynamic polymer systems with self-regulated secretion for the control of surface properties and material healing. Nat Mater 14: 790-795.- doi: 10.1038/nmat4325