Novel wetting properties made easier through laser micromachining

April 3, 2017

Researchers at Queen’s University have developed a fast, easy and inexpensive way to create surfaces with different wetting properties for the emerging field of droplet-based microfluidics.

The researchers used laser micromachining at the NanoFabrication Kingston lab to finely pattern a microarray with alternating hydrophilic (water-attracting) and superhydrophobic (water-repelling) areas. The work, recently published in the American Chemical Society journal Applied Materials and Interfaces (DOI: 10.1021/acsami.6b16363), was some of the first research to be published out of the new state-of-the-art facility.

Droplet-based microfluidics enable simple, rapid analysis of chemicals and bio-relevant materials by manipulating extremely tiny amounts of sample on surfaces that are patterned to alternately attract and repel moisture. Current analytical approaches can be expensive and cumbersome because they require complicated instruments, large amounts of sample, and lengthy processing times.

“You can learn a lot from manipulating droplets at nanolitre and sub-nanolitre volumes, but until now, creating the surfaces to do that droplet manipulation has been complex and time-consuming,” says principal investigator Richard Oleschuk of the Department of Chemistry at Queen’s.

Surprisingly, these novel surface properties take their cue from nature, mimicking the differential wetting surfaces found in a desert-dwelling beetle, which survives its arid environment by collecting dew on its wings and back.

Using a directed laser beam, the researchers generated circular hydrophilic patches on glass microscope slides that had been previously coated with a commercial water-repellant compound. They experimented with patch sizes from 100 to 1500 micrometres in diameter, and using droplets less than one nanolitre in volume (a nanolitre is one billionth of a litre).

They 3-D printed a microfluidic device to perform fluorescence-based measurements, which enabled them to quickly demonstrate how their patterned chip could be used to generate measurable, reproducible results in a cost-effective manner.

One of the benefits of this work is that is provides some starting reference points for others wanting to experiment with other materials and patterns, says Kyle Bachus, a PhD candidate who developed and executed the project. “What is really nice is that this work can be applied to various types of analysis including those that are biologically or environmentally relevant,” he says.

“With this Oxford laser system we’re able to write and mill many different patterns in a wide variety of materials. We wouldn’t be able to do any of this work without this instrument.”

“This work is a great example of the innovation that can be achieved using new technology, such as the laser in our lab,” says Graham Gibson, Operations Manager at the NanoFabrication Kingston lab and co-author of the article. “This was all made possible by the new infrastructure enabled by grants from the Canadian and Ontario governments, and support from Queen’s University and CMC Microsystems.”

The group now plans to try this approach with other, more cumbersome analytical schemes in the hopes of making them faster, easier and less expensive without sacrificing sensitivity and detection limits.

Graham Gibson
Lab Operations Manager
P: 613. 530. 4786

About NanoFabrication Kingston:
NanoFabrication Kingston (NFK) is a collaboration between Queen’s University, Innovation Park and CMC Microsystems, providing researchers and industry with access to leading-edge equipment, methodologies, and expertise for designing and prototyping microsystems and nanotechnologies.


Thinking big on a small scale: Researchers highlight what’s possible at NFK

NanoFabrication Kingston will highlight its lab’s new CFI equipment and enhanced capabilities at a workshop/webinar on Tuesday, Jan. 31, in the Innovation Park atrium. The event runs from 10 am to noon. Researchers, students and others are welcome.

Come hear about users’ experiences, learn how CMC Microsystems can help you achieve your nanofabrication goals, see a video of the new equipment in action, and tour the facility. Refreshments will be provided.

You can also attend via webinar.

To reserve a place at the event or to access the webinar, please RSVP to Graham Gibson,

A new name, a new look and new equipment for Kingston nano-fabrication lab

Jan. 17, 2017

The Kingston Nano-Fabrication Laboratory has a new name and a new look. Now known as NanoFabrication Kingston (, the name highlights the facility’s prototyping capabilities and its potential for fostering regional innovation, says Dan Gale, Vice-President and CTO of CMC Microsystems, which manages the operation of the facility.

“Prototyping is a critical step in the innovation process, and NanoFabrication Kingston provides academics and industry across Southeastern Ontario with the capabilities to explore, and make, affordable prototypes to demonstrate that their ideas work,” says Mr. Gale. “A company can investigate technology choices or performance enhancements, or have us do that for them. There’s even the possibility of doing early stage production runs for small numbers of devices or material volumes.”

Complementing these capabilities, the lab has just completed installation of three pieces of new equipment for deposition, patterning and etching of materials with greater ease, speed and precision.

“The lab offers new opportunities for industry-academic partners to take their ideas from exploration through to market-readiness development,” Mr. Gale says. “It also connects them to the opportunities and expertise to be found in counterpart labs across Canada.”

Users are being offered the opportunity to try out the new equipment at no additional charge until March 31, says lab manager Graham Gibson, and a webinar and lab tour for interested users is planned for the near future.

“As a collaboration of Queen’s and CMC Microsystems, NanoFabrication Kingston highlights the benefits of convergence,” says Dr. Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research) at Queen’s University. “The new enhancements to the lab, including the exciting new infrastructure, will provide even more opportunity for collaboration and partnership, and further develop Kingston’s innovation ecosystem.”

The facility’s new branding includes a distinctive logo and a descriptive tagline: People. Ideas. Technologies. “Our tagline reflects the importance of the researchers who are developing the materials and devices that form the basis of future technologies, and their students, whose training in this facility makes them industry-ready and immediately productive,” says Mr. Gale.

The logo, a bold black and gold geometric shape, suggestive of origami, was chosen for its strong, clean lines and its three-dimensional look, says Richard Oleschuk, Professor of Chemistry at Queen’s University and Chair of the NFK Science and Management Committee. “It suggests the idea of transformation, and about thinking big on a small scale. That’s what this lab is going to help us do.”

The logo’s gold colour reflects its relationship with Queen’s University, which established the lab at Innovation Park in partnership with CMC Microsystems.  The branding was a collaborative effort by representatives from the three groups. NanoFabrication Kingston is funded through the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation.


Dan Gale
Vice-President & CTO
CMC Microsystems
P: 613.530.4660

Graham Gibson
Lab Manager
P: (613) 530 4786

Angel Schur
Queen’s Industry Partnerships
P: 613.533.6000 x79345