Scalable microfluidic droplet on-demand generator for non-steady operation of droplet-based assays†
We developed a microfluidic droplet on-demand (DoD) generator that enables the production of droplets with a volume solely governed by the geometry of the generator for a range of operating conditions. The prime reason to develop this novel type of DoD generator is that its robustness in operation enables scale out and operation under non-steady conditions, which are both essential features for the further advancement of droplet-based assays. We first detail the working principle of the DoD generator and study the sensitivity of the volume of the generated droplets with respect to the used fluids and control parameters. We next compare the performance of our DoD generator when scaled out to 8 parallel generators to the performance of a conventional DoD generator in which the droplet volume is not geometry-controlled, showing its superior performance. Further scale out to 64 parallel DoD generators shows that all generators produce droplets with a volume between 91% and 105% of the predesigned volume. We conclude the paper by presenting a simple droplet-based assay in which the DoD generator enables sequential supply of reagent droplets to a droplet stored in the device, illustrating its potential to be used in droplet-based assays for biochemical studies under non-steady operation conditions.