Coalescing drops in microfluidic parking networks: A multifunctional platform for drop-based microfluidics

Swastika Saha Bithi, W. S. Wang, M Sun, Jerzy Blawzdziewicz, Siva Vanapalli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Multiwell plate and pipette systems have revolutionized modern biological analysis; however, they have disadvantages because testing in the submicroliter range is challenging, and increasing the number of samples is expensive. We propose a new microfluidic methodology that delivers the functionality of multiwell plates and pipettes at the nanoliter scale by utilizing drop coalescence and confinement-guided breakup in microfluidic parking networks (MPNs). Highly monodisperse arrays of drops obtained using a hydrodynamic self-rectification process are parked at prescribed locations in the device, and our method allows subsequent drop manipulations such as fine-gradation dilutions, reactant addition, and fluid replacement while retaining microparticles contained in the sample. Our devices operate in a quasistatic regime where drop shapes are determined primarily by the channel geometry. Thus, the behavior of parked drops is insensitive to flow conditions. This insensitivity enables highly parallelized manipulation of drop arrays of different composition, without a need for fine-tuning the flow conditions and other system parameters. We also find that drop coalescence can be switched off above a critical capillary number, enabling individual addressability of drops in complex MPNs. The platform demonstrated here is a promising candidate for conducting multistep biological assays in a highly multiplexed manner, using thousands of submicroliter samples.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)034118
StatePublished - May 2014


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