A portable artificial kidney system using microfluidics and multi-step filtration

Download files
Access & Terms of Use
open access
Embargoed until 2022-06-30
Copyright: Dang, Bac
Natural kidney filtration is a compact, multi-step filtration process which passes wastes and exceeded fluids via microscale vessels in glomerulus and tubules. The principal renal replacement therapy (RRT), commonly called dialysis, is a single-step filtration process based on diffusion to replace kidney failure. Conventional dialysis is limited in its effectiveness (not a continuous treatment), its impact on quality of life (typically requiring patients to spend several days per week in a clinic), and its cost (large systems, requiring frequent membrane replacement). This thesis is an investigation into the feasibility of using microfluidics and membrane technology to create portable alternatives to dialysis systems. It starts with a comprehensive review of the state-of-the-art in portable artificial kidneys, microfluidics, membrane science, and other related fields. An innovative, multi-step process was designed to mimic kidney filtration using two membranes; one to filter out large particles and one to remove urea and recycle water, thus mitigating the need for a dialysate system. The underlying physics (the mixing and shear stress) of the mechanisms which could enhance filtration performance at microscale was then studied. It was found that by adding microspacers into narrow-channel flows, it is possible to significantly enhance filtration. Optimized 3D-printed spacer designs (e.g., a ‘gyroid’ spacer) showed flux enhancement of up to 93% (compared to a plain channel) when using a plasma mimicking solution. The use of different blood and plasma mimicking solutions also suggested a prior step to separate large biological components (e.g., cells, proteins) is helpful to reduce cell contact and fouling in membrane filtration. The potential use of microfluidic diode valves and micropumps for pressure and flowrate regulation in the proposed small-format system was discussed. Membrane processes which mimic the filtration function of the tubules and have the potential for integration into portable systems (e.g., reverse osmosis and membrane distillation) are demonstrated to be useful potential alternatives to dialysis in toxin removal and in returning clean water to the blood stream.
Persistent link to this record
Link to Publisher Version
Link to Open Access Version
Additional Link
Dang, Bac
Barber, Tracie
Taylor, Robert A.
Li, Qiyuan
Conference Proceedings Editor(s)
Other Contributor(s)
Corporate/Industry Contributor(s)
Publication Year
Resource Type
Degree Type
PhD Doctorate
UNSW Faculty
download public version.pdf 16.6 MB Adobe Portable Document Format
Related dataset(s)