Polystyrene Pocket Lithography: Sculpting Plastic with Light

Pinak Samal, Jay Rabindra Kumar Samal, Eva Gubbins, Pascal Vroemen, Clemens van Blitterswijk, Roman Truckenmüller, Stefan Giselbrecht

Published: 2022


Tissue-culture-ware polystyrene is the gold standard for in vitro cell culture. While microengineering techniques can create advanced cell microenvironments in polystyrene, they require specialized equipment and reagents, which hinder their accessibility for most biological researchers. An economical and easily accessible method is developed and validated for fabricating microstructures directly in polystyrene with sizes approaching subcellular dimensions while requiring minimal processing time. The process involves deep ultraviolet irradiation through a shadow mask or ink pattern using inexpensive, handheld devices followed by selective chemical development with common reagents to generate micropatterns with depths/heights between 5 and 10 µm, which can be used to guide cell behavior. The remarkable straightforwardness of the process enables this class of microengineering techniques to be broadly accessible to diverse research communities.

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