Abstract: The past 25 years have seen considerable progress in the development of microfabricated systems for use in the chemical and biological sciences. At a basic level, microfluidic activities have been stimulated by the fact that physical processes can be more easily controlled when instrumental dimensions are reduced to the micron scale. The relevance of such technology is significant and characterized by a range of features that accompany system miniaturization.
My lecture will discuss how the spontaneous formation of droplets in microfluidic systems can be exploited to perform a variety of complex analytical processes and why the marriage of such systems with optical spectroscopies provides a direct route to high-throughput and high-information content experimentation. Droplet-based microfluidic systems allow the generation and manipulation of discrete droplets contained within an immiscible continuous phase. Significantly, they allow for the production of monodisperse droplets at rates in excess of tens of KHz and independent control of each droplet in terms of size, position, and chemical makeup.
I will provide examples of how droplet-based microfluidic systems can be used to perform a range of experiments including nanomaterial synthesis, cell- based assays and DNA amplification. Finally, the handling and processing of fL-nL volume fluids represents a critical challenge for molecular detection, and still defines one of the key limitations in the use of a microfluidic system in a given application. To this end, I will also describe recent studies focused on the development of novel label- free detection methods and imaging flow cytometry platforms.