Nano-liter droplet libraries from a pipette: step emulsificator that stabilizes droplet volume against variation in flow rate
Many modern analytical assays, for example, droplet digital PCR, or screening of the properties of single cells or single mutated genes require splitting a liquid sample into a number of small (typically ca. nano-liter in volume) independent compartments or droplets. This calls for a method that would allow splitting small (microliter) samples of liquid into libraries of nano-liter droplets without any dead volume or waste. Step emulsification allows for facile protocols that require delivery of only the sample liquid, yet they typically exhibit dependence of the droplet size on the rate at which the sample is injected. Here, we report a novel microfluidic junction that reduces the dependence of the volume of droplets on the rate of injection. We also demonstrate generation of tightly monodisperse nanoliter droplets by introduction of solely the dispersed phase into the system from an automatic pipette. The method presented here can readily be used and can replace the sophisticated devices typically used to generate libraries of nano-liter droplets from liquid samples.