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  1. Hybrid microfluidic systems that are composed of multiple different types of substrates have been recognized as a versatile and superior platform, which can draw benefits from different substrates while avoiding their limitations. This review article introduces the recent innovations of different types of low-cost hybrid microfluidic devices, particularly focusing on cost-effective polymer- and paper-based hybrid microfluidic devices. In this article, the fabrication of these hybrid microfluidic devices is briefly described and summarized. We then highlight various hybrid microfluidic systems, including polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS)-based, thermoplastic-based, paper/polymer hybrid systems, as well as other emerging hybrid systems (such as thread-based). The special benefits of using these hybrid systems have been summarized accordingly. A broad range of biological and biomedical applications using these hybrid microfluidic devices are discussed in detail, including nucleic acid analysis, protein analysis, cellular analysis, 3D cell culture, organ-on-a-chip, and tissue engineering. The perspective trends of hybrid microfluidic systems involving the improvement of fabrication techniques and broader applications are also discussed at the end of the review.
  2. The requirement of on-demand microfluidic pumps and instrument-free readout methods remains a major challenge for the development of microfluidics. Herein, a new type of microfluidic platform, an on-demand photothermal microfluidic pumping platform, has been developed using an on-chip nanomaterial-mediated photothermal effect as novel and remotely tunable microfluidic driving force. The photothermal microfluidic pumping performance can be adjusted remotely by tuning the irradiation parameters, without changing on-chip parameters or replacing enzymes or other reagents. In contrast to graphene oxide, Prussian blue nanoparticles with higher photothermal conversion efficiency were used as the model photothermal agent to demonstrate the proof of concept. The on-chip pumping distance is linearly correlated with both the irradiation time and the nanomaterial concentration. The applications of photothermal microfluidic pumping have been demonstrated in multiplexed on-chip transport of substances, such as gold nanoparticles, and visual quantitative bar-chart detection of cancer biomarkers without using specialized instruments. Upon contact-free irradiation using a laser pointer, a strong on-chip nanomaterial-mediated photothermal effect can serve as a robust and remotely tunable microfluidic pump in a PMMA/PDMS hybrid bar-chart chip to drive ink bars in a visual quantitative readout fashion. This is the first report on a photothermal microfluidic pumping platform, which has great potentialmore »for various microfluidic applications.« less
  3. Although noble metal nanocatalysts show superior performance to conventional catalysts, they can be problematic when balancing catalytic efficiency and reusability. In order to address this dilemma, we developed a smart paper transformer (s-PAT) to support nanocatalysts, based on easy phase conversion between paper and pulp, for the first time. The pulp phase was used to maintain the high catalytic efficiency of the nanocatalysts and the transformation to paper enabled their high reusability. Herein, as an example of smart paper transformers, a novel chromatography paper-supported Au nanosponge (AuNS/pulp) catalyst was developed through a simple water-based preparation process for the successful reduction of p -nitrophenol to demonstrate the high catalytic efficiency and reusability of the noble metal nanocatalyst/pulp system. The composition, structure, and morphology of the AuNS/pulp catalyst were characterized by XRD, TGA, FE-SEM, ICP, TEM, FT-IR, and XPS. The AuNS/pulp catalyst was transformed into the pulp phase during the catalytic reaction and into the paper phase to recover the catalysts after use. Owing to this smart switching of physical morphology, the AuNS/pulp catalyst was dispersed more evenly in the solution. Therefore, it exhibited excellent catalytic performance for p -nitrophenol reduction. Under optimal conditions, the conversion rate of p -nitrophenol reached nearlymore »100% within 6 min and the k value of AuNS/pulp (0.0106 s −1 ) was more than twice that of a traditional chromatography paper-based catalyst (0.0048 s −1 ). Additionally, it exhibited outstanding reusability and could maintain its high catalytic efficiency even after fifteen recycling runs. Accordingly, the unique phase switching of this smart paper transformer enables Au nanosponge to transform into a highly efficient and cost-effective multifunctional catalyst. The paper transformer can support various nanocatalysts for a wide range of applications, thus providing a new insight into maintaining both high catalytic efficiency and reusability of nanocatalysts in the fields of environmental catalysis and nanomaterials.« less