Jell-O Model of Microfluidics

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This activity uses Jell-O(R) to introduce learners to microfluidics, the flow of fluids through microscopic channels. Using wooden coffee stirrers, learners create patterns to be cast in Jell-O(R), then mix Jell-O(R() and pour it over the pattern, letting it set overnight (or over a weekend if possible). Once cured, the stirrers are removed, and water with food coloring is forced through the fluid channels. Multiple variations are shown, including one that uses pH paper as sensors, as well as suggestions and examples for different age groups. The write-up is from an academic journal, and can be useful for giving a higher-level reading assignment to students.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
1 to 7 days

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$10 - $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - adult

Resource Types:
Activity, Model, Simulation


Materials List (per group of students)

  • two 85g boxes of lemon-flavored Jell-O® powder
  • one pouch (7g) of unflavored (the Original) Knox Gelatin
  • 2 beakers of 120mL purified water for dissolving Jell-O® and Knox Gelatin
  • six 6” foam plates, round
  • one drinking straw, round
  • PAM® Original no-stick cooking spray
  • several 7” wooden coffee stirrers
  • food-grade color dye, green
  • single- and double-sided tape
  • six 5” aluminum weighing pans
  • two disposable transfer pipets
  • small vial of water with a few drops of green food coloring dye (~30mL)
  • two disposable BD 10mL syringes
  • small vial of water (~30mL)
  • small vial of water with a few drops of blue food coloring dye (~30mL)
  • two small pieces of acid-sensing pH paper
  • two small pieces of base-sensing pH paper
  • small vial of 1M hydrochloric acid (or cooking vinegar)
  • small vial of 1M sodium hydroxide (or dissolved antacid solution)


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Nanotechnology
  • Physical Sciences
    • States of Matter
      • Liquids
  • The Nature of Science
    • Science as a Career


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Yang, Cheng Wei T. ; Ouellet, Eric ; Lagally, Eric


Funding Source:

  • Michael Smith Laboratories