Homogenous droplet generator for microfluidic samples
The ability to generate fluid droplets is of vital importance for applications across chemical synthesis, drug screening and biomedical testing. Currently available methods for achieving this require complex and expensive sealed multi-channel fluid channel networks. The current methods also suffer from the creation of dead volume within the complex networks, from which significant portions of the fluid sample cannot be recovered.
Oxford researchers have developed a method by which homogenous droplets can be generated, stored, and applied using a single channel. This substantially reduces complexity and cost of the process and will be particularly advantageous for applications in digital PCR, single cell analysis, and rare molecule detection.
The generation of fluid droplets is crucial for a wide range of applications. They are used in many areas of microfluidics, including chemical synthesis, drug screening, and biomedical testing. Certain applications require that the sample is emulsified to produce homogenous droplets. This is especially important in digital PCR and single cell analysis, and rare molecule detection.
Current methods of generating fluid droplets are based on two immiscible fluids meeting at a junction within a fluid channel network. This results in a deformation of one of the fluids at the interface between the two fluids, which eventually leads to a droplet breaking off. The droplets are surrounded by continuous fluid and flow out of an outlet channel. This method, whilst effective, has a number of disadvantages. This could result in substantial dead volume in the fluid network, resulting in wastage of some of the fluid.
The method is also generally restricted to the formation of droplets from a single sample per device, making it difficult to produce mixtures of different droplets without using multiple junctions and a complex network to ensure correct outlet combinations. This results in a need for complex and expensive microfluidic devices.
Changing the Channel
Oxford researchers have developed a droplet generation method that only requires a single channel, removing the requirement for complex multi-channel devices and the process inefficiency created by dead volume. The technique is easy to use in parallel and enables reusable devices, substantially reducing the cost of the process. The method also allows the samples to be emulsified to create homogenous droplets for advanced applications.
The methodology is the subject of a patent application with scope for international coverage. Oxford University Innovation is seeking external partners to support the commercialisation of the technology.
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