[Biomicrofluidics] Amphiphilic nanoparticles suppress droplet break-up in a concentrated emulsion fl
This paper describes the break-up behavior of a concentrated emulsion comprising drops stabilized by amphiphilic silica nanoparticles flowing in a tapered microchannel. Such geometry is often used in serial droplet interrogation and sorting processes in droplet microfluidics applications. When exposed to high viscous stresses, drops can undergo break-up and compromise their physical integrity. As these drops are used as micro-reactors, such compromise leads to a loss in the accuracy of droplet-based assays. Here, we show droplet break-up is suppressed by replacing the fluoro-surfactant similar to the one commonly used in current droplet microfluidics applications with amphiphilic nanoparticles as droplet stabilizer. We identify parameters that influence the break-up of these drops and demonstrate that break-up probability increases with increasing capillary number and confinement, decreasing nanoparticle size, and is insensitive to viscosity ratio within the range tested. Practically, our results reveal two key advantages of nanoparticles with direct applications to droplet microfluidics. First, replacing surfactants with nanoparticles suppresses break-up and increases the throughput of the serial interrogation process to 3 times higher than that in surfactant system under similar flow conditions. Second, the insensitivity of break-up to dropletviscosity makes it possible to process samples having different composition and viscosities without having to change the channel and droplet geometry in order to maintain the same degree of break-up and corresponding assay accuracy.
Ya Gai1,a), Minkyu Kim2,a), Ming Pan3, and Sindy K. Y. Tang2,b)Hide Affiliations 1Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305, USA 2Department of Mechanical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305, USA 3Department of Material Science, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305, USA a)Y. Gai and M. Kim contributed equally to this work.
Biomicrofluidics 11, 034117 (2017); doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1063/1.4985158