A process for coating the inside surfaces of silicon microflow devices, such as electrophoresis microchannels, with a low-stress, conformal (uniform) silicon nitride film which has the ability to uniformly coat deeply-recessed cavities with, for example, aspect ratios of up to 40:1 or higher. The silicon nitride coating allows extended exposure to caustic solutions. The coating enables a microflow device fabricated in silicon to be resistant to all classes of chemicals: acids, bases, and solvents. The process involves low-pressure (vacuum) chemical vapor deposition. The ultra-low-stress silicon nitride deposition process allows 1-2 .mu.m thick films without cracks, and so enables extended chemical protection of a silicon microflow device against caustics for up to 1 year. Tests have demonstrated the resistance of the films to caustic solutions at both ambient and elevated temperatures to 65.degree. C.
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.