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Issue 3, 2015
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Droplet-based microfluidics at the femtolitre scale

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We have built a toolbox of modules for droplet-based microfluidic operations on femtolitre volume droplets. We have demonstrated monodisperse production, sorting, coalescence, splitting, mixing, off-chip incubation and re-injection at high frequencies (up to 3 kHz). We describe the constraints and limitations under which satisfactory performances are obtained, and discuss the physics that controls each operation. For some operations, such as internal mixing, we obtained outstanding performances: for instance, in 75 fL droplets the mixing time was 45 μs, 35-fold faster than previously reported for a droplet microreactor. In practice, in all cases, a level of control comparable to nanolitre or picolitre droplet manipulation was obtained despite the 3 to 6 order of magnitude reduction in droplet volume. Remarkably, all the operations were performed using devices made using standard soft-lithography techniques and PDMS rapid prototyping. We show that femtolitre droplets can be used as microreactors for molecular biology with volumes one billion times smaller than conventional microtitre plate wells: in particular, the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) was shown to work efficiently in 20 fL droplets.

Graphical abstract: Droplet-based microfluidics at the femtolitre scale

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Article information

24 Sep 2014
19 Nov 2014
First published
27 Nov 2014

Lab Chip, 2015,15, 753-765
Article type
Author version available

Droplet-based microfluidics at the femtolitre scale

M. Leman, F. Abouakil, A. D. Griffiths and P. Tabeling, Lab Chip, 2015, 15, 753
DOI: 10.1039/C4LC01122H

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