American Chemical Society
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Velocity Saturation in Digital Microfluidics

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posted on 2019-04-08, 00:00 authored by Ian Swyer, Ryan Fobel, Aaron R. Wheeler
In digital microfluidics, discrete droplets of fluid are made to move on an open surface with no microchannels. These systems are commonly operated by application of electrical driving forces to an array of electrodes. While these driving forces are well characterized, the dissipative forces opposing droplet movement have not been as thoroughly examined. In recognition of this deficit, we used force–velocity plots to characterize droplet movement in digital microfluidics, which was found to be consistent with a simple theoretical framework for understanding dissipation effects for droplets in two-plate, air-filled devices. Interestingly, in some conditions, a previously unreported ″velocity saturation″ effect was observed. When examined across a range of different liquids, the forces at which this saturation occurs seem to be lower for liquids with smaller surface tensions. Furthermore, when driven at forces that cause saturation, physical phenomena are observed that are akin to what has been reported for stationary droplets in the electrowetting literature. These phenomena are detrimental to device performance, leading to a new “force window” approach that delineates the optimum operation conditions for different liquids. We propose that these findings may be useful for a wide range of applications for experts and new users alike in this growing field.