In an innovative study, researchers at North Carolina State University have designed a way to control the movement of microscopic droplets of liquid freely floating across centimeter-sized chips packed with electrodes. The discovery allows the performance of new types of chemical experiments on the microscale.
The breakthrough came as the researchers – Dr. Orlin D. Velev, assistant professor of chemical engineering, and two NC State doctoral students, Brian Prevo and Ketan Bhatt – learned how to circumvent friction by suspending the droplets of water inside a fluorinated oil, and then using electrical voltages to allow the liquid to hover over the electrical circuits of the chip. Switching the chip’s electrodes on and off – either manually or with the aid of a computer – lets researchers move the droplets across the oil surface to any location on the chip.
The chip also allows researchers to conduct experiments with mixed droplets, as liquids can be moved along different paths and then merged or encapsulated in oil or polymer droplets.
Dr. Orlin Velev | NC State University
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