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Lab Chip. 2010 Jul 21;10(14):1873-7. doi: 10.1039/c001108h. Epub 2010 May 14.

Droplet freezing, docking, and the exchange of immiscible phase and surfactant around frozen droplets.

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Department of Chemistry, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-1700, USA.


This paper describes a platform for cooling microfluidic chips so as to freeze aqueous droplets flowing in oil. Using a whole-chip cooling chamber, we can control the ambient temperature surrounding a microfluidic chip and induce cooling and freezing inside the channels. When combined with a droplet generation and droplet docking chip, this platform allows for the facile freezing of droplets immobilized in resistance-based docks. Depending on the design and shape of the docks, the frozen droplets can either be trapped stably in the docks or be released because deformed non-frozen aqueous droplets turn spherical when frozen, and thus can become dislodged from the docks. Additionally, using this chamber and chip combination we are able to exchange immiscible phases and surfactants surrounding the frozen droplets. The materials and methods are inexpensive and easily accessible to microfluidics researchers, making this a simple addition to an existing microfluidic platform.

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