Lab on a chip

Plug-n-play microfluidic systems from flexible assembly of glass-based flow-control modules.

PMID 25711675


In this study, we report on a simple and versatile plug-n-play microfluidic system that is fabricated from flexible assembly of glass-based flow-control modules for flexibly manipulating flows for versatile emulsion generation. The microfluidic system consists of three basic functional units: a flow-control module, a positioning groove, and a connection fastener. The flow-control module that is based on simple assembly of low-cost glass slides, coverslips, and glass capillaries provides excellent chemical resistance and optical properties, and easy wettability modification for flow manipulation. The flexible combination of the flow-control modules with 3D-printed positioning grooves and connection fasteners enables creation of versatile microfluidic systems for generating various higher-order multiple emulsions. The simple and reversible connection of the flow-control modules also allows easy disassembly of the microfluidic systems for further scale-up and functionalization. We demonstrate the scalability and controllability of flow manipulation by creating microfluidic systems from flexible assembly of flow-control modules for controllable generation of multiple emulsions from double emulsions to quadruple emulsions. Meanwhile, the flexible flow manipulation in the flow-control module provides advanced functions for improved control of the drop size, and for controllable generation of drops containing distinct components within multiple emulsions to extend the emulsion structure. Such modular microfluidic systems provide flexibility and versatility to flexibly manipulate micro-flows for enhanced and extended applications.