A microfluidic probe (MFP) is a mobile channel-less microfluidic system under which a fluid is injected from an aperture into an open space, hydrodynamically confined by a surrounding fluid, and entirely re-aspirated into a second aperture. Various MFPs have been developed, and have been used for applications ranging from surface patterning of photoresists to local perfusion of organotypic tissue slices. However, the hydrodynamic and mass transfer properties of the flow under the MFP have not been analyzed, and the flow parameters are adjusted empirically. Here, we present an analytical model describing the key transport properties in MFP operation, including the dimensions of the hydrodynamic flow confinement (HFC) area, diffusion broadening, and shear stress as a function of: (i) probe geometry (ii) aspiration-to-injection flow rate ratio (iii) gap between MFP and substrate and (iv) reagent diffusivity. Analytical results and scaling laws were validated against numerical simulations and experimental results from published data. These results will be useful to guide future MFP design and operation, notably to control the MFP "brush stroke" while preserving shear-sensitive cells and tissues.
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