Jump to main content
Jump to site search

Issue 3, 2015
Previous Article Next Article

Droplet-based microfluidics at the femtolitre scale

Author affiliations


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

Back to tab navigation

Supplementary files

Publication details

The article was received on 24 Sep 2014, accepted on 19 Nov 2014 and first published on 27 Nov 2014

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C4LC01122H
Author version
Download author version (PDF)
Lab Chip, 2015,15, 753-765

  •   Request permissions

    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

Search articles by author