Analysis of the Structural integrity of SU-8-Based Optofluidic Systems for Small-Molecule Crystallization Studies
The use of SU-8-based optofluidic systems (OFS) is validated as an affordable and easy alternative to expensive glass device manufacturing for small-molecule crystallization studies and, in comparison with other polymers, able to withstand most organic solvents. A comparison between two identical OFS (using SU-8 and poly-(dimethylsiloxane), PDMS) against the 36 most commonly used organic solvents for small-molecule crystallization studies have confirmed both the structural and optical stability of the SU-8, whereas PDMS suffered from unsealing or tearing in most cases. In order to test its compatibility, measurements before and after 24 h of continued exposure against solvents have been pursued. Here, three aspects have been considered: in the macroscale, swelling has been determined by analyzing the variations in the optical path in the OFS. For determining compatibility at microscale, fabricated SU-8 micropatterns were solvent-etched and subsequently characterized by scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Roughness of the polymer has also been studied through atomic force microscopy (AFM) measurements at the nanoscale. Experimental measurements of PDMS swelling were in accordance with previously reported observations, while SU-8 displayed a great stability against all the tested solvents. Through this experimental procedure we also show that the OFS are suitable for real-time, on-chip, UV-vis spectroscopy. Micro- and nanoscale observations did not show apparent corrosion on SU-8 surface. Also, two commonly used carrier fluids for microdroplet generation (FC-70 Fluorinert oil and silicone oil) were also tested against the different solvents with the aim of providing useful information for later microbatch experiments.