Droplet Acoustofluidics for Biochemical Applications

Abstract: Droplet microfluidics is a promising platform for biochemical applications where compartmentalized droplets serve as individual vials. Droplets are formed by using two immiscible phases, the continuous phase and the dispersed phase, making up the droplets. Droplets are interesting because they can provide fast, parallel reactions with low reagent consumption. Microscale particles, such as cells, can be encapsulated in the droplets and chemical reagents can be added via a pico-injector. However, removal of droplet background signal is hard to achieved by conventional methods, especially if you do not want to risk losing the encapsulated cells. In this thesis, I present a droplet microfluidic system that can achieve this, via droplet-internal particle manipulation using acoustophoresis.This droplet microfluidic system contains pico-injection and droplet split with acoustophoresis. The pico-injection is used to add fresh solution into the droplets and the droplet split with acoustophoresis is used to remove the droplet supernatant. With the combination of the pico-injector and the droplet split, the background signal of the droplets can be reduced and the cell medium in the droplets can be exchanged. This droplet microfluidic system can also be used to control timing of enzyme reactions by initiating the reaction by adding enzyme-coupled beads via the pico-injector and taking a sample from the droplets at specific time points via side channels. In this work, I have also investigated how the design of the droplet split could be optimized to obtain high particle recovery and enrichment. Finally, acoustic properties of a selection of oils that can used as the continuous phase were mapped to optimize the droplet system for acoustophoresis.This thesis explores the biochemical applications performed by the droplet acoustofluidics, in-droplet time-controlled enzyme reaction and medium exchange for in-droplet cell culture. Furthermore, the droplet acoustofluidics has the potential to study the reaction kinetics by other enzymes and achieve long-term in-droplet cell culture.