High-throughput, off-chip microdroplet generator enabled by a spinning conical frustum
Although droplet-based microfluidics has been broadly used as a versatile tool in biology, chemistry, and nanotechnology, its rather complicated microfabrication process and the requirement of specialized hardware and operating skills hinder researchers fully unleashing the potential of this powerful platform. Here, we develop an integrated microdroplet generator enabled by a spinning conical frustum for the versatile production of near-monodisperse microdroplets in a high-throughput and off-chip manner. The construction and operation of this generator are simple and straightforward without the need of microfabrication, and we demonstrate that the generator is able to passively and actively control the size of the produced microdroplets. In addition to water microdroplets, this generator can produce microdroplets of liquid metal that would be difficult to produce in conventional microfluidic platforms as liquid metal has high surface tension. Moreover, we demonstrate that this generator can produce solid hydrogel microparticles and fibers using integrated ultraviolet (UV) light. In the end, we further explore the ability of this generator for forming double emulsions by coflowing two immiscible liquids. Given the remarkable abilities demonstrated by this platform and the tremendous potential of microdroplets, this user-friendly method may revolutionize the future of droplet-based chemical synthesis and biological analysis.