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A Novel Experimental Study of a Valveless Impedance Pump for Applications at Lab-On-Chip, Microfluidic, and Biomedical Device Size Scales


Meier, John Allen (2011) A Novel Experimental Study of a Valveless Impedance Pump for Applications at Lab-On-Chip, Microfluidic, and Biomedical Device Size Scales. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/DBKG-EJ21.


In 1954, Gerhart Liebau demonstrated a simple valveless pumping phenomenon utilizing the periodic compression of a compliant tube and some systematic asymmetry to pump water out of a bucket. Liebau's goal was to explain peculiarities seen in the human circulatory system. In the years that have followed, the Liebau phenomenon has been studied in a variety of open and closed loop configurations, through experimental, computational, and analytical studies.

Recent advances in microfluidic and microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) technology have enabled a wide range of small scale engineering systems. The further development of many important systems is limited by the absence of an appropriate means of fluid transport. Valveless pumps based on the Liebau phenomenon show great promise, particularly in lab-on-chip (LOC), biological, and medical applications in which biocompatibility and the ability to move sensitive molecules without damage are key design requirements.

The purpose of this thesis is to synthesize previous studies of the Liebau phenomenon and produce the first extensive experimental study of a novel valveless pump at size scales and geometries that are relevant to lab-on-chip, microfluidic, and biomedical device applications. For the first time, detailed, dynamic pressure and flow data have been recorded during the operation of these valveless pumps for a large range of operating parameters. This dynamic data allowed us to identify new flow regimes and observe previously undocumented pump behaviors and performance. Parameters investigated include pump material properties and geometry, working fluid density and viscosity, pump excitation properties (amplitude, offset, location, and frequency), and flow loop/system properties. A critical relationship between the relative volumetric compliance of the valveless pump to the system it acts upon is identified, and the implications for practical implementation of valveless pumps at small size scales are discussed.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:pump, valveless, impedance pump, Liebau phenomenon, lab-on-chip, micropump
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Mechanical Engineering
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Gharib, Morteza
Thesis Committee:
  • Gharib, Morteza (chair)
  • Dabiri, John O.
  • McKeon, Beverley J.
  • Ravichandran, Guruswami
Defense Date:23 May 2011
Non-Caltech Author Email:jameier (AT)
Funding AgencyGrant Number
NSF Graduate Research FellowshipUNSPECIFIED
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:05262011-111659863
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:6450
Deposited By: John Meier
Deposited On:31 May 2011 18:26
Last Modified:09 Aug 2022 17:03

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