Enhancing droplet transition capabilities using sloped microfluidic channel geometry for stable droplet operation
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Droplet-based microfluidics technology allows for the generation and control of droplets that function as independent chemical and biological reactors, enabling broad ranges of high-throughput assays. As more complex multi-step assays are being realized in droplet format, maintaining droplet stability throughout the assay becomes a critical requirement. Unfortunately, as droplets go through multiple manipulation steps, droplet breakage is commonly seen, especially where droplets have to go through sharp transitions in direction and shape. Standard microfabrication techniques typically result in inherent sharp geometry in Z-direction due to their two-dimensional fabrication nature. Recent advancement in micro- and nano- fabrication technology using two-photon polymerization (2PP) is enabling complex 3D microstructures with sub-micrometer resolution to be readily fabricated. Here, utilizing this microfabrication technique, we present a simple solution to the droplet stability challenge by utilizing sloped-geometry microfluidic channels to enable microdroplets to smoothly transition between microfluidic channels having two different heights without breakage. The technique and innovation demonstrated here have the potential to replace conventional droplet microfluidic device fabrication approaches and enable droplet microfluidic platforms to achieve significantly higher level of efficiency, accuracy, and stability never realized before.
author list (cited authors)
Wippold, J. A., Huang, C., Stratis-Cullum, D., & Han, A.