“From microtiter plates to droplets” tools for micro-fluidic droplet processing
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Droplet-based microfluidic allows high throughput experimentation in with low volume droplets. Essential fluidic process steps are on the one hand the proper control of the droplet composition and on the other hand the droplet processing, manipulation and storage. Beside integrated fluidic chips, standard PTFE-tubings and fluid connectors can be used in combination with appropriate pumps to realize almost all necessary fluidic processes. The segmented flow technique usually operates with droplets of about 100–500 nL volume. These droplets are embedded in an immiscible fluid and confined by channel walls. For the integration of segmented flow applications in established research workflows—which are usually base on microtiter plates—robotic interface tools for parallel/serial and serial/parallel transfer operations are necessary. Especially dose–response experiments are well suited for the segmented flow technique. We developed different transfer tools including an automated “gradient take-up tool” for the generation of segment sequences with gradually changing composition of the individual droplets. The general working principles are introduced and the fluidic characterizations are given. As exemplary application for a dose–response experiment the inhibitory effect of antibiotic tetracycline on Escherichia coli bacteria cultivated inside nanoliter droplets was investigated.