DropletIO proposes aqueous droplets as a programmable material for biology, art, and design. The DropletIO system can actuate and sense macro-scale droplets (nano-liter to micro-liter) on planar surfaces. The system can precisely move, merge, split, oscillate, and change the shape of droplets. We built custom printed circuit boards that integrate actuation and sensing, which act as building blocks for droplet control on devices of various form factors. We show how DropletIO boards can be integrated into a range of tools for biology, everyday objects as ubiquitous information displays and as an interaction medium for art and entertainment.
Droplets in Biology
Droplet-based microfluidics is extensively used in biology and chemistry. With DropletIO as the core technology, we are building a desktop machine to automate small volume liquid handling. The programmable system is capable of manipulating tiny droplets of biological samples/reagents with precise volume control. Our desktop machine will reduce lab equipment cost, eliminate human errors, and allow for the scaling of complex biological experiments from lab to production with ease. With the machine we want to bring down the cost of running assays from $10,000 to $10 to bring healthcare to billions of people.
Our solution replaces current liquid handling built on leaky tubes and unreliable pumping mechanisms with a solid-state device. Our digital device is entirely electronic and compact, a system that inexpensively scales to address complex experiments with small volume liquids. Due to its digital nature, a biologist using our system could define biological protocols by programming, executing, and sharing them. Thus, operations would scale digitally from lab to production. The system furthers cost savings by producing significantly less disposable waste such as pipette tips.