The authors have proposed a technique that implements a flow phantom in microfluidics, to significantly advance the development of flow phantoms. The flexible technique proposed by the authors can form micro-channels smaller than 20 um. The authors formed these channels in widely available inexpensive materials such as epoxies, plastics and household tapes. The experimental setup allows for rapid prototyping. Importantly, it should be possible to replicate this setup in other laboratories, allowing researchers to take advantage of this development directly. The paper presents an impressively thorough study of the microfluidics methods. The authors characterized the micro channels using scanning electron microscopy and investigated the theoretical flow dynamics within the channels using finite element analysis. Then, the authors tested their phantoms using a commercial speckle-based flow imaging system.
The most important development in this work is the capability to fabricate flow phantoms with complex geometries. The authors demonstrated phantoms with multiple channels, both overlapping and overlaying. They also demonstrated the use of a retinal image captured using a fundus camera as a template for the fabrication of a microfluidic phantom.
In conclusion, the developments reported in this paper will allow researchers to readily and reliably produce phantoms with relevant geometries matching that of real vasculature. These phantoms can be produced rapidly and inexpensively. This work represents the first significant attempt to incorporate knowledge of the geometry of vasculature into the design of a flow phantom.
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