High-precision digital droplet pipetting enabled by a plug-and-play microfluidic pipetting chip
Emerging demands for handling minute liquid samples and reagents have been constantly growing in a wide variety of medical and biological areas. This calls for low-volume and high-precision liquid handling solutions with ease-of-use and portability. In this article, a new digital droplet pipetting method is introduced for the first time, derived from the microfluidic impact printing principle. Configured as a conventional handheld pipette, the prototype device consists of a plug-and-play and disposable microfluidic pipetting chip, driven by a programmable electromagnetic actuator for on-demand dispensing of nanoliter droplets. In particular, the impact-driven microfluidic pipetting chip, in place of the traditional disposable pipette tips, offers both liquid loading and droplet generation. The printing nozzle has been micro-fabricated using a femtosecond laser with a super-hydrophobic structure, in order to minimize the dispensing residues. As a result of the high-precision droplet dispensing principle, the variations of the dispensed volume have been successfully reduced from 49.5% to 0.6% at 0.1 μL, as compared to its commercial counterparts. A proof-of-concept study for concentration dilution and quantitative analysis of cell drug resistance has been carried out by using the digital droplet pipetting system, demonstrating its potential in a broad range of biomedical applications which require both high precision and low-volume processing.