Synchronized reinjection and coalescence of droplets in microfluidics†
Coalescence of two kinds of pre-processed droplets is necessary to perform chemical and biological assays in droplet-based microfluidics. However, a robust technique to accomplish this does not exist. Here we present a microfluidic device to synchronize the reinjection of two different kinds of droplets and coalesce them, using hydrostatic pressure in conjunction with a conventional syringe pump. We use a device consisting of two opposing T-junctions for reinjecting two kinds of droplets and control the flows of the droplets by applying gravity-driven hydrostatic pressure. The hydrostatic-pressure operation facilitates balancing the droplet reinjection rates and allows us to synchronize the reinjection. Furthermore, we present a simple but robust module to coalesce two droplets that sequentially come into the module, regardless of their arrival times. These re-injection and coalescence techniques might be used in lab-on-chip applications requiring droplets with controlled numbers of solid materials, which can be made by coalescing two pre-processed droplets that are formed and sorted in devices.