Electrically Controllable Microparticle Synthesis and Digital Microfluidic Manipulation by Electric-Field-Induced Droplet Dispensing into Immiscible Fluids
The dispensing of tiny droplets is a basic and crucial process in a myriad of applications, such as DNA/protein microarray, cell cultures, chemical synthesis of microparticles, and digital microfluidics. This work systematically demonstrates droplet dispensing into immiscible fluids through electric charge concentration (ECC) method. It exhibits three main modes (i.e., attaching, uniform, and bursting modes) as a function of flow rates, applied voltages, and gap distances between the nozzle and the oil surface. Through a conventional nozzle with diameter of a few millimeters, charged droplets with volumes ranging from a few μL to a few tens of nL can be uniformly dispensed into the oil chamber without reduction in nozzle size. Based on the features of the proposed method (e.g., formation of droplets with controllable polarity and amount of electric charge in water and oil system), a simple and straightforward method is developed for microparticle synthesis, including preparation of colloidosomes and fabrication of Janus microparticles with anisotropic internal structures. Finally, a combined system consisting of ECC-induced droplet dispensing and electrophoresis of charged droplet (ECD)-driven manipulation systems is constructed. This integrated platform will provide increased utility and flexibility in microfluidic applications because a charged droplet can be delivered toward the intended position by programmable electric control.