Johannes Kepler University Linz
Integrated Circuit and System Design
Univ.-Prof. Dr. Robert Wille
Altenberger Straße 69 | SCP3 0405
4040 Linz | Austria
Tel: +43 732 2468 4739

Map and directions to JKU


Microfluidics is a multidisciplinary field which deals with the precise control and manipulation of fluids in the micro scale (i.e. the samples’ volumes are only a few micro- to pico-liters). A promising application of microfluidics are so-called “Lab-on-a-Chip” (LoC). LoCs allow to miniaturize, integrate, automate and parallelize (bio-)chemical assays. Here, experiments e.g. from biology, medicine, etc. are conducted on tiny chips in an automatic fashion, which are usually executed by hand in large labs with significant manual interactions.

Our Work

Simulation results of our tool
The design and layout of microfluidic devices have become considerably complex tasks. For example, state-of-the-art LoCs are governed by complex flow regimes or are composed of thousands of entities and a huge number of features to be realized. Despite this complexity, most of the designs of LoCs are still conducted in a manual fashion. With increasing complexity of LoCs, this situation can obviously not be sustained very long. Our work aims to overcome this by means of sophisticated methods for simulation and Electronic Design Automation (EDA). Our research is mainly focused (but not limited) to the following issues:

  • Simulation: The state-of-the-art in the design of microfluidics is to fabricate the prototype, observe the functionality and refine the design until a working design is obtained. Of course, this produces high time and resource costs. We therefore propose to conduct simulations in order to validate the design before the first prototype is fabricated. Therefore, our research focuses on methods for simulation, which are based on Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) and especially on the 1D analysis model (also called the electric circuit analogy). More precisely, we developed an Advanced Simulation Framework exploiting the 1D analysis model, which is especially suited for simulating designs before even the first prototype is fabricated and for design space explorations. More details and also the implementation of this Advanced Simulation Framework can be found here.
  • Design automation: In today's design and implementation of microfluidic devices, many steps are conducted manually thus far. Exactly here design automation tools can support microfluidic designers and accomplish such tasks in a push-button fashion. For example, designers frequently draw similar designs for meander channels in a CAD program like AutoCAD. In order to overcome this manual task, we developed an online tool, which allows designers to automatically generate meander designs with their needs and fabrication settings. Overall, in our research we envision a tool support targeting the needs of the microfluidics' community.

Selected Papers

We developed several methods and tools which are specialized for the design of microfluidic devices. In the following, you can find a selected set of the resulting publications. A full list of papers is available at this page.

  • Simulation and Design of Droplet Microfluidic Networks:
    • A. Grimmer, X. Chen, M. Hamidovic, W. Haselmayr, C. Ren, and R. Wille. Simulation before fabrication: a case study on the utilization of simulators for the design of droplet microfluidic networks. In RSC Advances, 8, 60:34733–34742, 2018. PDF (see also this page for the implementation and further information)
    • A. Grimmer, P. Frank, P. Ebner, S. Häfner, A. Richter, and R. Wille. Meander Designer: Automatically Generating Meander Channel Designs. In Micromachines, 9(12), 2018. PDF (see also this page for the tool and further information)
  • Design of Droplet Microfluidic Networks exploiting a passive droplet routing mechanism:
    • A. Grimmer, W. Haselmayr, and R. Wille. Automated Dimensioning of Networked Labs-on-Chip. In IEEE Transactions on Computer Aided Design of Integrated Circuits and Systems (TCAD), 2018. PDF
    • A. Grimmer, W. Haselmayr, A. Springer, and R. Wille. A Discrete Model for Networked Labs-on-Chip: Linking the Physical World to Design Automation. In Design Automation Conference (DAC), 50:1-50:6, 2017. PDF
    • A. Grimmer, W. Haselmayr, A. Springer, and R. Wille. Verification of Networked Labs-on-Chip Architectures. In Design, Automation and Test in Europe (DATE), 1679-1684, 2017.PDF
    • A. Grimmer, W. Haselmayr, and R. Wille. Automatic Droplet Sequence Generation for Microfluidic Networks with Passive Droplet Routing. In IEEE Transactions on Computer Aided Design of Integrated Circuits and Systems (TCAD), 2018.PDF
  • Design of Continuous Flow-based Microfluidics Using Valves (e.g. also PMDs):
    • A. Grimmer, B. Klepic, T.-Y. Ho, and R. Wille. Sound Valve-Control for Programmable Microfluidic Devices. In Asia and South Pacific Design Automation Conference (ASP-DAC), 2018. PDF (see also this page for the implementation).
    • A. Grimmer, Q. Wang, H. Yao, T.-Y. Ho, and R. Wille. Close-to-Optimal Placement and Routing for Continuous-Flow Microfluidic Biochips. In Asia and South Pacific Design Automation Conference (ASP-DAC), 530-535, 2017. PDF

  • Design of EWOD & MEDA microfluidics
    • O. Keszöcze, Z. Li, A. Grimmer, R. Wille, K. Chakrabarty, and R. Drechsler. Exact Routing for Micro-Electrode-Dot-Array Digital Microfluidic Biochips. In Asia and South Pacific Design Automation Conference (ASP-DAC), 708-713, 2017. PDF
    • O. Keszöcze, R. Wille, T.-Y. Ho, and R. Drechsler. Exact One-pass Synthesis of Digital Microfluidic Biochips. In Design Automation Conference (DAC), 2014. PDF

Professional Services

We are also involved in organizing events to further pursue the field and to strengthen the community, e.g.
  • Organizer of the tutorial “Networked LoCs: A Passive Routing Concept for Two-Phase-Flow Microfluidics” at µTAS 2017 (the major LoC conference)
  • Organizer of an NII Shonan Seminar entitled “Microfluidic Biochips: Bridging Biochemistry with Computer Science and Engineering” in 2017 and a Dagstuhl Seminar on “Design of Microfluidic Biochips: Connecting Algorithms and Foundations of Chip Design to Biochemistry and the Life Sciences” in 2015
  • Organizer of several tutorials e.g. at ICCAD or ESWEEK
  • Organizer of the Special Day on “Future and Emerging Technologies” with a dedicated session on microfluidics at DATE 2018
  • Organizer of several special sessions on that topic e.g. at ICCAD, IWLS, ISED, and more.