Electrostatic charging and control of droplets in microfluidic devices†
Precharged droplets can facilitate manipulation and control of low-volume liquids in droplet-based microfluidics. In this paper, we demonstrate non-contact electrostatic charging of droplets by polarizing a neutral droplet and splitting it into two oppositely charged daughter droplets in a T-junction microchannel. We performed numerical simulation to analyze the non-contact charging process and proposed a new design with a notch at the T-junction in aid of droplet splitting for more efficient charging. We experimentally characterized the induced charge in droplets in microfabricated devices. The experimental results agreed well with the simulation. Finally, we demonstrated highly effective droplet manipulation in a path selection unit appending to the droplet charging. We expect our work could enable precision manipulation of droplets for more complex liquid handling in microfluidics and promote electric-force based manipulation in ‘lab-on-a-chip’ systems.