Semi-automated on-demand control of individual droplets with a sample application to a drug screening assay
Automated control of individual droplets in microfluidic channels offers tremendous potential for applications requiring high accuracy and minimal user involvement. The feasibility of active droplet control has been previously demonstrated with pressure-driven flow control and visual feedback, but the manual operation required to perform droplet manipulations limited the accuracy, repeatability, and throughput. The present study improves upon the aforementioned challenges with a higher-level algorithm capturing the dynamics of droplet motion for a semi-automated control system. With a simple T junction geometry, droplets can now be automatically and precisely controlled on-demand. Specifically, there is ±10% accuracy for droplet generation, ±1.3% monodispersity for 500 μm long droplets and ±4% accuracy for splitting ratios. On-demand merging, mixing, and sorting are also demonstrated as well as the application of a drug screening assay related to neurodegenerative disorders. Overall, this system serves as a foundation for a fully automated system that does not require valves, embedded electrodes, or complex multi-layer fabrication.