Controlled droplet discretization and manipulation using membrane displacement traps†
An innovative platform enabling complex discretization and manipulation of aqueous droplets is described. The system uses simple membrane displacement trap elements to perform multiple functions including droplet discretization, release, metering, capture, and merging. Multi-layer PDMS devices with membrane displacement trap arrays are used to discretize sample into nanoliter scale droplet volumes, and reliably manipulate individual droplets within the arrays. Performance is characterized for varying capillary number flows, membrane actuation pressures, trap and membrane geometries, and trapped droplet volumes, with operational domains established for each platform function. The novel approach to sample digitization and droplet manipulation is demonstrated through discretization of a dilute bacteria sample, metering of individual traps to generate droplets containing single bacteria, and merging of the resulting droplets to pair the selected bacteria within a single droplet.