RPF 16/17: Digital microfluidics: An enabling technology for inter-disciplinary research at York

Project: Research project (funded)Internal pump-priming

Project Details


Amount awarded £18,496

Layman's description

Digital microfluidics (DMF) is a rapidly emerging sample handling technology that integrates microfluidics with electronics for the precise manipulation of isolated, microliter droplets. This low volume, high precision approach to fluid handling is highly versatile and has been demonstrated in applications ranging from analytical chemistry and proteomics to clinical diagnostics, low volume mass spectrometry, cell-sorting and DNA extraction and purification. This programme will undertake three, inter-disciplinary exemplar DMF projects that enhance ongoing research and underpin new collaborations across the University.

Key findings

We have successfully fabricated, tested and optimised a DMF system. This system has the capability of moving aqueous droplets over the surface of a DMF chip containing electrodes of area as small as 0.01mm2. Three more systems are currently being constructed which will be housed and used across the university (currently we plan to house one in Physics and one in Biology). In addition, we have constructed a fluorescent spectrophotometer that can be integrated with our DMF system to provide real-time measurements of fluorescent molecules in situ (objective 1). Furthermore, we have shown that the fluorometer output can be used to control our DMF system (i.e. closed loop operation) to enable autonomous operation. The system has been optimised to monitor the state of fluorescently labelled DNA and we are currently in the final stages of demonstrating a fully autonomous, DNA computational machine using the integrated DMF and fluorescent assay (objective 2). A paper detailing the integrated system and the autonomous molecular computational is currently being drafted. This proof-of-principle will also underpin a research proposal (EPSRC, S. Johnson, A. Tyrrell, C. Walti) due for submission October 2018.
Effective start/end date1/08/1631/07/17