DROPLAY: laser writing of functional patterns within biological microdroplet displays†
In this study, we introduce an optofluidic method for the rapid construction of large-area cell-sized droplet assemblies with user-defined, re-writable, two-dimensional patterns of functional droplets. Light responsive water-in-oil droplets capable of releasing fluorescent dye molecules upon exposure were generated and self-assembled into arrays inside a microfluidic device. This biological architecture was exploited by the scanning laser of a confocal microscope to ‘write’ user defined patterns of differentiated (fluorescent) droplets in a network of originally undifferentiated (non-fluorescent) droplets. As a result, long lasting images were produced on a droplet fabric with droplets acting as pixels of a biological monitor, which can be erased and re-written on-demand. Regio-specific light-induced droplet differentiation within a large population of droplets provides a new paradigm for the rapid construction of bio-synthetic systems with potential as tissue mimics and biological display materials.