Continuous tuneable droplet ejection via pulsed surface acoustic wave jetting
We report a miniaturised platform for continuous production of single or multiple liquid droplets with diameters between 60 and 500 μm by interfacing a capillary-driven self-replenishing liquid feed with pulsed excitation of focussed surface acoustic waves (SAWs). The orifice-free operation circumvents the disadvantages of conventional jetting systems, which are often prone to clogging that eventuates in rapid degradation of the operational performance. Additionally, we show the possibility for flexibly tuning the ejected droplet size through the pulse width duration, thus avoiding the need for a separate device for every different droplet size required, as is the case for systems in which the droplet size is set by nozzles and orifices, as well as preceding ultrasonic jetting platforms where the droplet size is controlled by the operating frequency. Further, we demonstrate that cells can be jetted and hence printed onto substrates with control over the cell density within the droplets down to single cells. Given that the jetting does not lead to significant loss to the cell's viability or ability to proliferate, we envisage that this versatile jetting method can potentially be exploited with further development for cell encapsulation, dispensing and 3D bioprinting applications.