Rational design of a high-throughput droplet sorter

The high-throughput selection of individual droplets is an essential function in droplet-based microfluidics. Fluorescence-activated droplet sorting is achieved using electric fields triggered at rates up to 30 kHz, providing the ultra-high throughput relevant in applications where large libraries of compounds or cells must be analyzed. To achieve such sorting frequencies, electrodes have to create an electric field distribution that generates maximal actuating forces on the droplet while limiting the induced droplet deformation and avoid disintegration. We propose a metric characterizing the performance of an electrode design relative to the theoretical optimum and analyze existing devices using full 3D simulations of the electric fields. By combining parameter optimization with numerical simulation we derive rational design guidelines and propose optimized electrode configurations. When tested experimentally, the optimized design show significantly better performance than the standard designs.

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