A versatile technology for droplet-based microfluidics: thermomechanical actuation†
We report on a versatile technique for microfluidic droplet manipulation that proves effective at every step: from droplet generation to propulsion to sorting, rearrangement or break-up. Non-wetting droplets are thermomechanically actuated in a microfluidic chip using local heating resistors. Controlled temperature variation induces local dilation of the PDMS wall above the resistor, which drives the droplet away from the hot (i.e. constricted) region (B. Selva, I. Cantat and M.-C. Jullien, Phys. Fluids, 2011, 23, 052002). Adapted placing and actuation of such resistors thus allow us to push forward, stop, store and release, or even break up droplets, at the price of low electric power consumption (<150 mW). We believe this technically accessible method to provide a useful tool for droplet microfluidics.