An improved apparatus and method for vacuum fusion bonding of large, patterned glass plates. One or both glass plates are patterned with etched features such as microstructure capillaries and a vacuum pumpout moat, with one plate having at least one hole therethrough for communication with a vacuum pumpout fixture. High accuracy alignment of the plates is accomplished by a temporary clamping fixture until the start of the fusion bonding heat cycle. A complete, void-free fusion bond of seamless, full-strength quality is obtained through the plates; because the glass is heated well into its softening point and because of a large, distributed force that is developed that presses the two plates together from the difference in pressure between the furnace ambient (high pressure) and the channeling and microstructures in the plates (low pressure) due to the vacuum drawn. The apparatus and method may be used to fabricate microcapillary arrays for chemical electrophoresis; for example, any apparatus using a network of microfluidic channels embedded between plates of glass or similar moderate melting point substrates with a gradual softening point curve, or for assembly of glass-based substrates onto larger substrates, such as in flat panel display systems.
The United States Government has rights in this invention pursuant to Contract No. W-7405-ENG-48 between the United States Department of Energy and the University of California for the operation of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.