An integrated droplet-digital microfluidic system for on-demand droplet creation, mixing, incubation, and sorting†
Droplet microfluidics is a technique that has the ability to compartmentalize reactions in sub nano- (or pico-) liter volumes that can potentially enable millions of distinct biological assays to be performed on individual cells. In a typical droplet microfluidic system, droplets are manipulated by pressure-based flows. This has limited the fluidic operations that can be performed in these devices. Digital microfluidics is an alternative microfluidic paradigm with precise control and manipulation over individual droplets. Here, we implement an integrated droplet-digital microfluidic (which we call ‘ID2M’) system in which common fluidic operations (i.e. droplet generation, cell encapsulation, droplet merging and mixing, droplet trapping and incubation, and droplet sorting) can be performed. With the addition of electrodes, we have been able to create droplets on-demand, tune their volumes on-demand, and merge and mix several droplets to produce a dilution series. Moreover, this device can trap and incubate droplets for 24 h that can consequently be sorted and analyzed in multiple n-ary channels (as opposed to typical binary channels). The ID2M platform has been validated as a robust on-demand screening system by sorting fluorescein droplets of different concentration with an efficiency of ∼96%. The utility of the new system is further demonstrated by culturing and sorting tolerant yeast mutants and wild-type yeast cells in ionic liquid based on their growth profiles. This new platform for both droplet and digital microfluidics has the potential to be used for screening different conditions on-chip and for applications like directed evolution.