Electrowetting droplet microfluidics on a single planar surface
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Electrowetting refers to an electrostatically induced reduction in the contact angle of an electrically conductive liquid droplet on a surface. Most designs ground the droplet by either sandwiching the droplet with a grounding plate on top or by inserting a wire into the droplet. Washizu and others have developed systems capable of generating droplet motion without a top plate while allowing the droplet potential to float. In contrast to these designs, we demonstrate an electrowetting system in which the droplet can be electrically grounded from below using thin conductive lines on top of the dielectric layer. This alternative method of electrically grounding the droplet, which we refer to as grounding-from-below, enables more robust droplet translation without requiring a top plate or wire. We present a concise electrical-energy analysis that accurately describes the distinction between grounded and non-grounded designs, the improvements in droplet motion, and the simplified control strategy associated with grounding-from-below designs. Electrowetting on a single planar surface offers flexibility for interfacing to liquid-handling instruments, utilizing droplet inertial dynamics to achieve enhanced mixing of two droplets upon coalescence, and increasing droplet translation speeds. In this paper, we present experimental results and a number of design issues associated with the grounding-from-below approach.
KeywordsElectrowetting Droplet microfluidics Laboratory automation μTAS Dielectrophoresis
The authors wish to acknowledge Robert Melendes and Ming Lu for their assistance and microfabrication expertise, and Dr. Reza Miraghaie for the high-speed image of electrowetting droplet shape oscillations. We also acknowledge NIH/GMS for a mentored quantitative research career development award to James D. Sterling (Grant No. 5K25GM063837), and NIH for the Small Business Innovation Research Awards (Grant No. 2R44GM067469-02).
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