Fluoropolymer surface coatings to control droplets in microfluidic devices
We have demonstrated the application of low surface energy fluoropolymer coatings onto poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS) microfluidic devices for droplet formation and extraction-induced merger of droplets. Initiated chemical vapor deposition (iCVD) was used to pattern fluoropolymer coatings within microchannels based on geometrical constraints. In a two-phase flow system, the range of accessible flow rates for droplet formation was greatly enhanced in the coated devices. The ability to controllably apply the coating only at the inlet facilitated a method for merging droplets. An organic spacer droplet was extracted from between a pair of aqueous droplets. The size of the organic droplet and the flow rate controlled the time to merge the aqueous droplets; the process of merging was independent of the droplet sizes. Extraction-induced droplet merging is a robust method for manipulating droplets that could be applied in translating multi-step reactions to microfluidic platforms.