APPLICATIONS OF TECHNOLOGY:
- Improved digital microfluidic (DMF) technologies to enable chip-based synthetic biology and biological assays
- Automation of droplet manipulation
- Facilitates manufacturing and operation of chips for synthetic biology and biological assays
- Automates aqueous drop generation and manipulation
- Reduces production costs
Researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have developed related digital microfluidic (DMF) technologies to enhance and streamline drop manipulation, improve chip capabilities, and reduce manufacturing costs for increased experimental flexibility.
The 2017-052 technology is a design approach that divides fabrication complexity into two separate components: a control layer and a droplet layer. The control layer is a reusable IC chip that incorporates a complex array of transistors and wiring to control droplet manipulation. The second droplet layer is pattern of electrodes, dielectric and fluidic channels that is inexpensive and disposable. The droplet layer component is easily fabricated for each experimental purpose and reversibly connected to the control layer, so that the control layer remains independent of the microfluidic application and can thus be reused.
The disposable droplet chip can be fabricated and customized for specific applications, using a variety of substrates (e.g., glass, organic or inorganic polymers, printed circuit boards (PCBs), paper) and methods (e.g., 3D printing, electrode printing on a substrate, photolithography) and be connected to the control layer via a number of methods. This packaging format provides two benefits over the state-of-the-art 1) a highly programmable device with a low-cost and disposable droplet layer and 2) low (10s) to moderate (100s) to very high-density (10,000-100,000s) electrode arrays that can be operated in row-column mode similar to integrated circuit (e.g., CCD or TFT) arrays.
The 2017-053 technology uses busing of single or multilayer digital microfluidic electrodes for minimizing the number of electrode actuator connections to perform a wide range of DMF droplet operations.
Individually addressable electrodes can be integrated to allow programmable or on-demand droplet manipulation. A droplet conveyance system aids in droplet generation from reservoirs, transportation across the device and droplet merging. Large numbers of electrodes can be bused in a single layer, allowing on-demand functionality including: droplet generation, introduction, holding, merging, splitting and collection. Stacking of the single or multi-layer bused DMF conveyor electrodes to generate a 2D electrode array also allows increased device functionality with dramatically reduced number of electrodes. For example, only five electrode actuations can enable multiple operations including droplet merging, splitting and sorting.
Current DMF chip architecture offers a limited number of usable electrodes, and chips with higher numbers of electrode arrays require expensive multi-step fabrication. JBEI’s technology offers a lower cost and flexible alternative to increase chip functionality, reduce costs, and advance application of DMF chips.
DEVELOPMENT STAGE: Proven principle.
STATUS: Patent pending. Available for licensing or collaborative research.
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