Better reactions, less waste with innovative microfluidic mixer

Image: By Abby Tabor | Science Writer at NASA's Ames Research Center

The ability to carry out a chemical reaction on the microscale means much smaller volumes of reagents used, which can equal big cost savings. A team of researchers at UCLA has developed a new system to overcome the big microfluidic challenge facing such approaches: mixing.

Reactions require thorough mixing of liquids—for good yields, repeatable results, to eliminate side reactions—and this remains extremely difficult to achieve. Today’s microfluidic chips end up wasting reagents, because stability of droplet flow is rarely achieved from drop number one and it’s hard to know at what point it kicks in. The innovative, new design from the van Dam Lab at UCLA’s Crump Institute for Molecular Imaging combines the advantages of different existing systems, like quick mixing times and control over mixing volumes, into one device. Their micromixing chip, consisting of a digital drop generator, droplet mixer and gas extractor, integrates easily with digital microfluidic chips and automated systems for various applications.

The van Dam team’s development could be used for synthesis of radiolabeled tracers for applications like PET scans, automated optimization of reaction conditions, and much more, all with excellent control, flexibility and efficiency. 


Image: Spinx-technologies at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

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