Microdroplet operations in polymeric microtubes

Zhang, Yu and Wang, Ziyun and New, Declan and Zagnoni, Michele (2021) Microdroplet operations in polymeric microtubes. Analytical Chemistry, 93 (4). pp. 2411-2418. ISSN 0003-2700 (https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.analchem.0c04360)

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Microsystem technologies allow a plethora of operations to be achieved for microemulsion- and microdroplet-based assays, providing miniaturised, yet large throughput capabilities to assist experimentation in analytical chemistry, biology and synthetic biology. Many of such approaches have been implemented on-chip, using microfluidic and lab-on-a-chip technologies. However, the microfabrication of such devices relies on expensive equipment and time-consuming methods, thus hindering their uptake and use by many research laboratories where microfabrication expertise is not available. Here, we demonstrate how fundamental water-in-oil microdroplet operations, such as droplet trapping, merging, diluting and splitting, can be obtained using straightforward, inexpensive and manually fabricated polymeric microtube modules. The modules are based on creating an angled tubing interface at the interconnection between two polymeric microtubes. We have characterised how the geometry and fluid dynamic conditions at this interface enabled different droplet operations to be achieved in a versatile and functional manner. We envisage this approach to be an alternative solution to expensive and laborious microfabrication protocols for droplet microfluidics.