Phased peristaltic micropumping for continuous sampling and hardcoded droplet generation†
Droplet microfluidics has recently emerged as a new engineering tool for biochemical analysis of small sample volumes. Droplet generation is most commonly achieved by introducing aqueous and oil phases into a T-junction or a flow focusing channel geometry. This method produces droplets that are sensitive to changes in flow conditions and fluid composition. Here, we present an alternative approach using a simple peristaltic micropump to deliver the aqueous and oil phases in antiphase pulses resulting in a robust “chopping”-like method of droplet generation. This method offers controllable droplet dynamics, with droplet volumes solely determined by the pump design, and is insensitive to liquid properties and flow rates. Importantly, sequences of droplets with controlled composition can be hardcoded into the pump, allowing chemical operations such as titrations and dilutions to be easily achieved. The push–pull pump is compact and can continuously collect samples, generating droplets close to the sampling site and with short stabilisation time. We envisage that this robust droplet generation method is highly suited for continuous in situ sampling and chemical measurement, allowing droplet microfluidics to step out of the lab and into field-deployable applications.