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Microfluid Nanofluidics. 2010 Oct;9(4-5):933-943. Epub 2010 Apr 22.

Microfluidic device for robust generation of two-component liquid-in-air slugs with individually controlled composition.

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  • 1Department of Molecular & Medical Pharmacology, Crump Institute for Molecular Imaging, California NanoSystems Institute, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, 570 Westwood Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90095 USA.


Using liquid slugs as microreactors and microvessels enable precise control over the conditions of their contents on short-time scales for a wide variety of applications. Particularly for screening applications, there is a need for control of slug parameters such as size and composition. We describe a new microfluidic approach for creating slugs in air, each comprising a size and composition that can be selected individually for each slug. Two-component slugs are formed by first metering the desired volume of each reagent, merging the two volumes into an end-to-end slug, and propelling the slug to induce mixing. Volume control is achieved by a novel mechanism: two closed chambers on the chip are initially filled with air, and a valve in each is briefly opened to admit one of the reagents. The pressure of each reagent can be individually selected and determines the amount of air compression, and thus the amount of liquid that is admitted into each chamber. We describe the theory of operation, characterize the slug generation chip, and demonstrate the creation of slugs of different compositions. The use of microvalves in this approach enables robust operation with different liquids, and also enables one to work with extremely small samples, even down to a few slug volumes. The latter is important for applications involving precious reagents such as optimizing the reaction conditions for radiolabeling biological molecules as tracers for positron emission tomography. ELECTRONIC SUPPLEMENTARY MATERIAL: The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10404-010-0617-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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