"Automatic Methods for the Design of Droplet Microfluidic Networks"
Automatic Methods for the Design of Droplet Microfluidic Networks
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Microfluidics deals with the manipulation of small amounts of fluids (in the order of few micro to pico-liters) and finds a broad application in (bio-)chemistry, biology, pharmacology, and food industries. In order to implement a microfluidic device, droplet microfluidic networks provide a well-established and highly potential platform because droplets are especially suited to encapsulate biological samples like cells, proteins, or DNA. In this platform, the droplets are injected in a continuous, immiscible phase and flow through closed microchannels to modules executing operations on the droplets - eventually realizing a (bio-)chemical experiment. However, when designing a droplet microfluidic network implementing the required operations,a huge number of physical parameters need to be considered (e.g. the dimensions of the channels, ow rates, the applied phases, etc.) which all depend on and affect each other. This results in a complex task, where, thus far, the designer often has very few methods to derive a design or even to simply validate whether it works as intended. This thesis proposes automatic methods for the design of droplet microfluidic networks. To this end, the thesis contributes simulation and design methods which support the design process of droplet microfluidics in general as well as design methods for a dedicated droplet routing mechanism, namely passive droplet routing. By this, a comprehensive "toolbox" for designers working on droplet microfluidic networks is provided. The suitability of all proposed methods has been evaluated and was confirmed by simulations, by fabricated devices, and directly by stakeholders from the microfluidic domain. For example, a conducted case study successfully shows that the proposed methods allow to reduce the design time of a complex microfluidic network from one person-month to a single day. By additionally providing open source implementations, a large user group within the domain of microfluidics is reached