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Numerical and experimental study of a droplet-based PCR chip

Mohr, S. and Zhang, Yonghao and MacAskill, Alexandra and Day, P.J.R. and Barber, Robert W. and Goddard, N.J. and Emerson, David and Fielden, P.R. (2007) Numerical and experimental study of a droplet-based PCR chip. Microfluidics and Nanofluidics, 3 (5). pp. 611-621. ISSN 1613-4982

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A two-temperature continuous-flow polymerase chain reaction (PCR) polymer chip has been constructed that takes advantage of droplet technology to avoid sample contamination and adsorption at the surface. Samples contained in aqueous droplets are continuously moved by an oil carrier-fluid through various temperature zones, introducing the possibility of real-time quantitative PCR. In the present paper, we investigate many of the factors affecting droplet-based PCR chip design, including thermal mass, flow rate, and thermal resistance. The study focuses particularly on the fluid and substrate temperature distribution within the PCR chip and the droplet residence times in critical temperature zones. The simulations demonstrate that the flow rate strongly affects the temperature field within the carrier-fluid. Above a critical flow rate, the carrier-fluid fails to achieve the required temperatures for DNA amplification. In addition, the thermal resistances of the different layers in the chip are shown to have a major impact on the temperature profile in the channel.