PathDriver+: Enhanced Path-Driven Architecture Design for Flow-Based Microfluidic Biochips

Xing Huang, Youlin Pan, Grace Li Zhang, Bing Li, Wenzhong Guo, Tsung Yi Ho, Ulf Schlichtmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Continuous-flow microfluidic biochips have attracted high research interest over the past years. Inside such a chip, fluid samples of milliliter volumes are efficiently transported between devices (e.g., mixers, heaters, etc.) to automatically perform various laboratory procedures in biology and biochemistry. Each transportation task, however, requires an exclusive flow path composed of multiple contiguous microchannels during its execution period. Excess/waste fluids, in the meantime, should be discarded by independent flow paths connected to waste ports. All these paths are etched in a very tiny chip area using multilayer soft lithography and driven by flow ports connecting with external pressure sources, forming a highly integrated chip architecture that determines the final performance of biochips. In this article, we propose a new and practical design flow called PathDriver+ (PD+) for the architecture design of microfluidic biochips, integrating the actual fluid manipulations into both high-level synthesis and physical design, which has never been considered in prior work. With this design flow, highly efficient chip architectures with a flow-path network that enables the actual fluid transportation and removal can be constructed automatically. Meanwhile, fluid volume management between devices and flow-path minimization are realized for the first time, thus, ensuring the correctness of assay outcomes while reducing the complexity of chip architectures. Additionally, diagonal channel routing is implemented to fundamentally improve the chip performance. The tradeoff between the numbers of channel intersections and fluidic ports is evaluated to further reduce the fabrication cost of biochips. The experimental results on multiple benchmarks confirm that the proposed design flow leads to high assay execution efficiency and low overall chip cost.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2185-2198
Number of pages14
JournalIEEE Transactions on Computer-Aided Design of Integrated Circuits and Systems
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2022


  • Architecture design
  • Diagonal routing
  • Flow-path planning
  • Fluid manipulation
  • Fluidic port
  • Microfluidics
  • Volume management


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