Design and Fabrication by Thermal Imprint Lithography and Mechanical Characterization of a Ring-Based PDMS Soft Probe for Sensing and Actuating Forces in Biological Systems.


Center for Bio-Molecular Nanotechnologies@Unile, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, Via Eugenio Barsanti 14, 73010 Arnesano (LE), Italy. [Email]


In this paper, the design, fabrication and mechanical characterization of a novel polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) soft probe for delivering and sensing forces in biological systems is proposed. On the basis of preliminary finite element (FEM) analysis, the design takes advantage of a suitable core geometry, characterized by a variable spring-like ring. The compliance of probes can be finely set in a wide range to measure forces in the micronewton to nanonewton range. In particular, this is accomplished by properly resizing the ring geometry and/or exploiting the mixing ratio-based elastic properties of PDMS. Fabrication by the thermal imprint lithography method allows fast and accurate tuning of ring sizes and tailoring of the contact section to their targets. By only varying geometrical parameters, the stiffness ranges from 1080 mNm-1 to 50 mNm-1, but by changing the base-curing agent proportion of the elastomer from 10:1 to 30:1, the stiffness drops to 37 mNm-1. With these compliances, the proposed device will provide a new experimental tool for investigating force-dependent biological functions in sensory systems.


PDMS,force sensor,hair cell,mechanosensing,soft probe,thermal imprint lithography,