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We demonstrate the use of a phononic crystal to enable the nebulisation of liquid droplets from low-cost disposable arrays, using surface acoustic waves (SAW). The SAWs were generated using interdigitated transducers (IDT) on a piezoelectric surface (LiNbO3) and the acoustic waves were coupled into a disposable phononic crystal structure, referred to as a superstrate. Using its excellent reflecting properties, the phononic structures confined the acoustic field within the superstrate, resulting in the concentration of the acoustic energy, in a manner controllable by the excitation frequency. We show that this capability mitigates against coupling losses incurred by the use of a disposable superstrate, greatly reducing the time needed to nebulise a drop of water with respect to an unstructured superstrate for a given power. We also demonstrate that by changing the excitation frequency, it is possible to change the spatial position at which the acoustic energy is concentrated, providing a means to specifically nebulise drops across an array. These results open up a promising future for the use of phonofluidics in high-throughput sample handling applications, such as drug delivery or the “soft” transfer of samples to a mass spectrometer in the field of proteomics.
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