Magnetically manipulated droplet splitting on a 3D-printed device to carry out a complexometric assay†
A method for performing droplet actuation, splitting, and dispensing using only magnetic force and physical confinement is reported. The combination of low-friction superhydrophobic surfaces and droplets containing superparamagnetic particles is demonstrated to reliably dispense droplets with a precision (≤6%) similar to standard air-displacement pipettes. The 3D printed microfluidic chips incorporate individual wells, a weir structure and differential channel depths to facilitate droplet splitting in differing ratios. Both empirical observations and numerical simulations show that the splitting is a combination of wetting and pressure differences. The method enables a parent drop to be dispensed and split into droplets ranging in size from 5–20 μL using different well volumes. Once dispensed/split the droplets can be further actuated, merged and mixed. An EDTA-based complexometric colorimetric titration for water hardness is conducted on-chip. The degree of colour change is then determined utilizing a cell phone camera and image analysis and used to calculate water hardness; this measurement was found to agree with the traditional, larger scale method. The simple, robust dispensing method is adaptable to other digital microfluidic assays.