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Nat Mater. 2004 Dec;3(12):896-9. Epub 2004 Nov 7.

Manipulation of liquid droplets using amphiphilic, magnetic one-dimensional photonic crystal chaperones.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, Department 0358, La Jolla, California 92093-0358, USA.


The controlled manipulation of small volumes of liquids is a challenging problem in microfluidics, and it is a key requirement for many high-throughput analyses and microassays. One-dimensional photonic crystals made from porous silicon have been constructed with amphiphilic properties. When prepared in the form of micrometre-sized particles and placed in a two-phase liquid such as dichloromethane/water, these materials will accumulate and spontaneously align at the interface. Here we show that superparamagnetic nanoparticles of Fe(3)O(4) can be incorporated into the porous nanostructure, allowing the materials to chaperone microlitre-scale liquid droplets when an external magnetic field is applied. The optical reflectivity spectrum of the photonic crystal displays a peak that serves to identify the droplet. Two simple microfluidics applications are demonstrated: filling and draining a chaperoned droplet, and combining two different droplets to perform a chemical reaction. The method provides a general means for manipulating and monitoring small volumes of liquids without the use of pumps, valves or a microfluidic container.

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