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Biomicrofluidics. 2015 Feb 12;9(1):014119. doi: 10.1063/1.4907895. eCollection 2015 Jan.

On demand nanoliter-scale microfluidic droplet generation, injection, and mixing using a passive microfluidic device.

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Faculty of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Microsystems Chemistry and BioIT (BioMIP), Ruhr-University Bochum , 44780 Bochum, Germany.


We here present and characterize a programmable nanoliter scale droplet-on-demand device that can be used separately or readily integrated into low cost single layer rapid prototyping microfluidic systems for a wide range of user applications. The passive microfluidic device allows external (off-the-shelf) electronically controlled pinch valves to program the delivery of nanoliter scale aqueous droplets from up to 9 different inputs to a central outlet channel. The inputs can be either continuous aqueous fluid streams or microliter scale aqueous plugs embedded in a carrier fluid, in which case the number of effective input solutions that can be employed in an experiment is no longer strongly constrained (100 s-1000 s). Both nanoliter droplet sequencing output and nanoliter-scale droplet mixing are reported with this device. Optimization of the geometry and pressure relationships in the device was achieved in several hardware iterations with the support of open source microfluidic simulation software and equivalent circuit models. The requisite modular control of pressure relationships within the device is accomplished using hydrodynamic barriers and matched resistance channels with three different channel heights, custom parallel reversible microfluidic I/O connections, low dead-volume pinch valves, and a simply adjustable array of external screw valves. Programmable sequences of droplet mixes or chains of droplets can be achieved with the device at low Hz frequencies, limited by device elasticity, and could be further enhanced by valve integration. The chip has already found use in the characterization of droplet bunching during export and the synthesis of a DNA library.

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